When it comes to billionaires, most people think of the names that are commonly brought up in the media; names like Gates, Jobs, Trump, Rockefeller, and others. However, there are more billionaires than just the tiny portion that live in the United States. Here is a list of the top billionaires in France, who have made their fortunes in everything from real estate to investments to hotels, and more.
10. Pierre Bellon: $3.4 billion
Until he stepped down in 2005, Mr. Bellon was the owner of Sodexo, one of the largest catering companies in the world with over 413,000 employees in 80 countries. Sodexo supplies the U.S. Marine Corps, the Ryder Cup, the World Scout Jamboree, and various other events and groups with both regular meals and catering. His autobiography is entitled ‘I Have Had a Great Time’.
9. Oliver Bouygues and Martin Bouygues: $3.7 billion
These two brothers own 21% of the Bouygues Group, a multinational industrial conglomerate that was founded in 1952 by their father. Known for the English Channel Tunnel, the University of Riyadh in Saudi Arabis, and the Sydney CityRail airport link, the company not only specializes in worldwide construction, but also in telecom and media. The brothers also bought the Chateau Montrose vineyard in 2006, diversifying their portfolio to include wine.
8. Alain Merieux: $3.7 billion
Mr. Merieux is the son of Marcel Merieux, who was a lab assistant to Louis Pasteur. He is the current CEO of BioMerieux, which specializes in research on bacteria and infectious diseases such as HIV and Tuberculosis. His eldest son, who was supposed to inherit the company, tragically perished at age 27 in the TWA Flight 800 crash in 1996. His next son, who is currently a doctor and the company’s Senior V.P. of Research and Development, is slated to inherit the company when Mr. Merieux retires in the next several years.
7. Xavier Niel: $4.5 billion
While he has made the bulk of his fortune in the telecommunications and technology industries, Mr. Niel started out as the creator of an erotic chat service for French internet forerunner Minitel. He was also a shareholder in various sex shops and peep shows until he was jailed for a month on a prostituion charge. He is not the founder and majority shareholder of the French ISP Iliad, which trades under Free Mobile.
6. Jean-Claude Decaux: $4.9 billion
In 1964, Mr. Decaux founded JCDeaux, which revolutionized outdoor advertising across France. While he handed the CEO reigns to his two sons in 2000, he continues to serve as the chairman of the company’s supervisory board. Since its founding, the company has grown to include over 10,000 employees working in over 55 countries.
5. Alain and Gerard Wertheimer: $7.5 billion
The grandfather of these two brothers co-founded Chanel with Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel, which rapidly grew into a world-renowned company worth billions. In addition to their work with Chanel, the brothers are world-famous equestrians who own Thoroughbreds that have won well-known races such as the Breeder’s Cup and the French Derby.
4. Serge Dassault: $9.9 billion
Mr. Dassault is the current chairman and CEO of Groupe Dassault, which he inherited from his father Marcel. The group is involved in a number of industries, including aviation, software, and media. Their media holdings began with the 2004 purchase of news outlet Le Figaro, which has been consolidated with other media outlets owned by the group into Le Groupe Figaro.
3. Francois Pinault: $13 billion
Born in a poor peasant family, Mr. Pinault truly has a rags-to-riches story; now owning and managing a number of fashion houses including Stella McCartney, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen. His holding company also owns the Vail ski resort in Colorado, Samsonite, and Converse, among other well-known brands. He is also the owner of the high-end auction house Christie’s, which sold $5.3 billion worth of art at auctions in 2012.
2. Liliane Bettencourt: $24 billion
As the daughter of its founder, Ms. Bettencourt is considered the richest woman in the world due to her controlling stake in cosmetics giant L’oreal. In addition to being behind brands ranging from Maybelline to Lancome, Ms. Bettencourt has founded the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation to further medical, cultural, and humanitarian projects in both France and developing countries around the world.
1. Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault: $29 billion
Mr. Arnault put up $15 million back in 1985 to buy Christian Dior. Today, he is CEO and Chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Well-known luxury brands under its umbrella include Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, and Fendi. He is also a world-renowned art collector, whose collection includes pieces by Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Henry Moore.