Serge Dassault dies aged 93 at his office

Defence industry patriarch was the fifth richest man in France with a fortune of more than €20 billion

Serge Dassault, the billionaire French defence industrialist and politician, has died at his office in Paris aged 93

Serge Dassault, the billionaire French defence industrialist and politician, has died at his office in Paris aged 93

 

Serge Dassault, the billionaire French defence industrialist and politician, has died at his office in Paris aged 93.

Mr Dassault - who had headed a sprawling business empire that included a controlling stake in Dassault Aviation, maker of the Rafale fighter jet - suffered a heart attack at the group’s Paris headquarters on Monday.

“The Dassault family is saddened to announce the death of Mr Serge Dassault, today, May 28, 2018, in the afternoon, at his office at the Champs-Élysées Roundabout Marcel-Dassault, following a heart attack at the age of 93,” said his family in a statement published on the website of French conservative newspaper Le Figaro, which is owned by the group.

French president Emmanuel Macron said after the news: “In Serge Dassault, France lost a man who devoted his life to developing a flagship of French industry.”

Mr Dassault was a conservative politician, former French senator and head of one of France’s great industrial families.

He was chief executive of the family holding company Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault, which has a 62 per cent stake in Dassault Aviation and through that a 25 per cent stake in French defence electronics group Thales. The company also owns a winery, Château Dassault, and Artcurial, the auction house.

According to Le Figaro, leading up to his death “Serge Dassault had never thought of retiring and came to the office every day. In recent months, he had - a little - lightened his schedule.”

Although undeniably successful in his own right, Mr Dassault was often compared to his powerful father, with whom he had a difficult relationship.

He was the son of the industrialist Marcel Bloch, who survived the Nazi concentration camps and changed his name to Dassault after the war. His father founded the aircraft company Dassault and helped it flourish thanks to his connections with the French state.

Dassault was the alias of Marcel’s brother when he was part of the French resistance.

Serge Dassault, as group patriarch, had courted controversy even as his expansion of his family’s business empire since taking the helm gave him influence in politics and the defence sector.

Last year, Mr Dassault was found guilty of fraud by a Paris court after failing to fully disclose his wealth to the tax authorities. He was fined €2 million and handed a five-year ban from public office. He had been appealing against the decision.

He had previously been stripped of the mayorship of Corbeil-Essonne in 2009 after France’s highest administrative court found he had provided gifts to voters that could have affected the outcome of his election.

Mr Dassault had admitted using his immense fortune - he was the fifth richest man in France with a fortune of more than €20 billion according to Challenges magazine - to help people and organisations in Corbeil-Essonne. However, he always denied that any of that help was given in return for electoral support. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018