How millionaire Vincent Bolloré became one of the most feared entrepreneurs

French businessman and billionaire Vincent Bolloré.

French businessman and billionaire Vincent Bolloré.

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Vincet Bolloré: The name makes French managers sweat. Others admire the multi-billionaire and his obscure strategy on the market. The 68-year-old is kind of French Charles Forster Kane. Just like the film character from Orson Welles’ Hollywood classic “Citizen Kane”, Bolloré rules a large business empire, influences politics and owns the largest French media company.

Bolloré’s story is not that of a child from a working-class family who had to create their existence from the ground up. He is the son of a wealthy family from Brittany. He was born on April 1, 1952 in the town of Boulogne-Billancourt, southwest of Paris. He has always been drawn to the big city – because that’s where big money is made and politics is made.

Bolloré completed his Bachelor of Laws at the University of Paris-Nanterre not far from the Seine. He started his career as one of the most feared investors in France at the Edmond de Rothschild investment bank. From 1981 he took over the business of the family company Bolloré. Founded in 1822 as a paper manufacturer, the family-run conglomerate is now one of the largest companies in the world, maintains a wide-ranging portfolio of transport, logistics and communications companies and is also the largest port operator in Africa.

Vincent Bolloré is considered a busy businessman who likes to be insecure and buy cheap in order to achieve the greatest possible profit. In 1999 he received 20 percent of the film production company Pathé, only to sell his shares again to the largest French media group Vivendi a month later. The deal reportedly earned the businessman € 220 million.

Today the billionaire also owns Vivendi. Since 2014, Bolloré has been steadily expanding its claim to power in the group and now wants to restructure the company. In addition to the video game developer Gameloft and the book publisher Editis, the media group also owns Universal Music, the largest music label in the world. The label owns the exploitation rights for the Beatles, Elton John and the Rolling Stones, among others. The Universal Music Group has a 70 percent share of the media company’s earnings and generates billions of dollars every year. The plan now provides for the music label to be listed on the stock exchange. The share price of the group rose after this news on Monday by 20 percent, as the “Handelsblatt” reported.

Influence on politics and allegations of corruption

Bolloré and the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy have had a long friendship.

Bolloré and the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy have had a long friendship.

BENOIT TESSIER / AFP via Getty Images

The bustling businessman is not only on the stock exchange, but also in politics and has powerful friends there. Bollorés has been in close contact with the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy for years. The politician was seen from time to time on one of the entrepreneur’s private jets or luxury yachts, which led to public criticism. Sarkozy, however, was unfazed. He would like more people like Bolloré in the French economy, said the ex-president in an interview with the French radio station Europe 1.

Bolloré also had joint plans with the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. They wanted to build a “European Netflix”, but fell out in court. Investigations into corruption are also ongoing against Bolloré. The French advertising agency Havas, in which he holds shares, has supported various politicians on the African continent during the election campaign.

His current biggest competitor, however, is also the richest man in the Grande Nation and Europe: Bernard Arnault. According to insider information in the “Handelsblatt”, both want to influence the 2022 presidential election. Arnault is in close contact with President Macron. Bolloré, however, holds to the right edge and Marie Le Pen.

Bolloré actually wants to retire at the age of 70 in the election year. His son Cyrille takes over the family business. However, it remains to be seen whether he will really give up all reins. The insider is certain in the “Handelsblatt”: “Bolloré’s logic is always that of money.”


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