L'autre information du Nord – Pas-de-Calais

Economic dynasties: when local business dances to the tune of seven families

DailyNord en anglais Par | 31 janvier 2013

Dynasty. Some of you perhaps remember the televised series, Dynasty, which appeared on our screens at the beginning of the 80’s in France, with the rich and influential Carrington family… But dynasties are by no means exclusive to American TV series or to monarchs. DailyNord has decided to prove it with a special on dynasties, which will be published in several parts. We start with the most famous dynasty of them all: the economic dynasty. Seven families who play for high stakes.


In the family « tied more by business than blood », DailyNord investigates…

The Mulliez’ of course! With the Mulliez’, business is a family affair. Nearly 500 cousins govern with an iron fist many large retail chains after having taken the family oath, which is… « No foreign blood » Because if you want in on the shady profit-sharing fund that grants entry into their little heaven on earth, then you must have pure Mulliez blood running through your veins. Even concubines are asked to return all share rights in they get up and leave. The simple rule is « no dissolution ». The journalist Benoit Boussemart, expert on the Mulliez’, and author of several books on the subject, estimates that the clan easily disposes of business funds worth 30 billion Euros, based on detailed calculations of extensive data…

One thing’s for sure. Grandpa Louis Mulliez, who made his money in the textile and spinning industries of Roubaix, would be a proud man today. Amongst his eleven children, Gerard, the eldest one, had the brilliant idea to launch Phildar. Other offspring followed suit. His grandchild, also called Gérard, launched the highly profitable hypermarket, Auchan. Another one of his grandchildren, Gonzague, made his fortune in carpets with Saint-Maclou. These pioneers inspired a hoard of other Mulliez’s, like Thierry, founder of Pizza Paï, Yann, who launched the clothes shop Jules, or Franky, founder of Kiloutou. Without forgetting Antoine Mayaud (Pimkie) or Pierre-Alain Vielvoye (Leroy Merlin), Eric Derville (Norauto), Patrick Mulliez (Kiabi), Philippe Van der Wees (Cultura) or Michel Leclercq (Decathlon). They all hit the jackpot except for… Hugues Mulliez, who launched Youg’s, which was to become Surcouf. He has the dubious distinction of being the only member of the family to run firmly aground. Which shows that even great dynasties give birth to the occasional lame duck.

In the family « We have been here for generations », DailyNord investigates…

The Bonduelles, king of all types of packaged vegetables, and Lesaffre, world leader in the field of yeast and bread production. They have six generations of experience behind them! It all started way back in the 1800’s when Louis-Antoine Bonduelle joined forces with yet another Louis, Louis Lesaffre, to establish a small distillery of grains and juniper (to make gin). But in the 1900’s, the descendants of the two families fell out to the point that the business was divided up between the two warring factions. Andre, first generation of what was to become Bonduelle, went into grain production for distillation with his two sons Pierre and Benoît, And it was finally a meeting with a packaged vegetables industrialist that marked the beginning of Bonduelle as we know it today: world number one of packaged and fresh vegetables. Succeeding generations did the rest. The 4th generation took distributors out of the loop (so increasing their own profit-margins) and registered the Bonduelle trademark. The 5th generation (with Bruno Bonduelle, long-time President of the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a position also held by his brother), increased production capacity considerably. The 6th generation, with its present managing director, Christophe Bonduelle who is Bruno’s nephew, and helped by three other family members, compete amongst themselves to come up with evermore elaborate ideas for fresh, packaged and frozen produce. The same success story for Lesaffre, which today, with the help of 7,200 employees worldwide (including 800 at head-office in Marcq-en-Baroeul), produces the yeast found in one in three loaves and has a sales turnover of approximately 1.4 billion Euros. Even if the boardroom power has long been shared between the two cousins, Maurice and Lucien, the sixth generation is already waiting in the wings and some of them are already on the board of directors.

In the family, « We started with next to nothing », DailyNord investigates…

The Holders and the Klabas. The first family founded a flourishing bakery business while the second one created the international giant that hosts internet sites, OVH (which stands for « We host you » in French). When Francis Holder, a local baker in the centre of Lille (Grand’Place), met Francoise at the end of the 1970’s, who would have thought that their marriage was to be the start of the extraordinary rise of Paul, the chain of bakery stores. Today, with nearly 500 shops throughout the world, two mills in France plus a factory based at Marcq-en-Baroeul, the northern group is doing well. The trademark registers a sales turnover of around 456 million Euros and has 8,000 employees. Today, Francis and Francoise have handed down the business to their children. While the eldest, David, 44, is director of the House of Ladurée patisserie (which has a flagship store in New York), Maxime, 42, is general managing director of Paul Bakeries, which has become the mainstay of the family company. Their young sister, Elisabeth, 39, is in charge of customer service for the Holder Group as well as for the bakery franchise Saint-Preux.

As for the Kablas, their story could inspire a film. When the family arrived in France in the 1990’s, they had just 6000 Euros and an old car to their name. It was at a family reunion that Henry Klaba, not yet an adult, agreed to flee communist Poland with his family to start a new life in France, and so gave destiny a nudge in the right direction. Some years later, his son Octave, began to play around with computers in the basement of their French home… Still studying computer technology, Octave felt that his internet site was too expensive to host. From which he got the idea to offer a competitive service at an unbeatable price: OHV. Today, the group, which is based in Roubaix, continues to expand internationally, headed by Henry. The business now has a turnover of 100 million Euros.

In the family of « We’ll drink to that », DailyNord investigates…

Méo coffee: it all started off with two brothers, Jules and Emile Meauxsoone, born in Warneton in Belgium. In 1928, they opened their first coffee house in Lille. More houses quickly sprang up around Lille in the space of just ten years. Their strategy? The quality of the coffee beans and their impeccable roasting. Méo, a contraction of the family name, Meauxsoone, was born. From Parisian coffee houses to the shelves of Auchan, from being sold under the Max Havelaar fair-trade label or under other distributors’ brand names, Méo has blazed a trail of success. The company, with its head-offices on the quayside in the west of Lille, employs some 50 people and has a turnover of 35 million Euros. Since the disappearance of the founders, the family torch has been handed down to the children. On Emile’s side, his son Gérald is chairman and his daughter, Catherine Meauxsoone, takes care of marketing, while on Jules’ side, Louise has stepped in. Louise’s own sons have also joined the family business, with Bernard Sénéchal as administrative and business director and Pierre Sénéchal, in charge of Méo marketing for the hotel and restaurant sector… And as the whole family adores coffee, the adventure is apparently nowhere near its end.

At the Castelains, something good is brewing: Beer! Even if he’s retired, Yves Castelain, 62 years old, still continues to keep an eye on the affairs of the Castelain brewery, manufacturer of the now famous Ch’ti beer, produced near Bénifontaine in the Pas-de-Calais region. Not easy to pass on the baton when it’s a business that employs 30 people and has an annual turnover of 6 million Euros, especially when one is still chairman of the brewery. Yet, a large part of the family have their noses to the (hop) grindstone. Yves’ youngest sister, Annick Drouin (her married name), is in charge of general management and Yves’ son Nicolas, 32 years old, is responsible for brewing and production, thanks to his degree in agri-foodstuffs with brewing chosen as an option.. What with the grandparents Roland and Marie-Louise Castelain, who purchased the brewery in 1966, Yves, who guaranteed its success by creating Ch’ ti, Annick, who’s in charge of marketing and communication and Nicolas who keeps abreast of the times, Ch’ ti’s future looks frothy.

In the family « Brothers at each other’s throats », DailyNord investigates…

Demeyère furniture and Durand glass. December 2012: scuffle in the schoolyard at Pérenchies. Bernard Demeyère, 64 years old and at the head of the kit-furniture company that bears the family name and has 1,000 employees, is kicked out and replaced by his brother Frédéric. Hard to swallow for Bernard who took over the family company in 1981 to continue the industrial adventure started by his grandfather Lucien, in 1909, and which had been in the hands of Bernard’s father since 1956. For it was Bernard who, once at the helm, immediately invited on board his brothers, Jacques and Frederic, ten and eighteen years younger than him as well as Nicole, their young sister. The reason for the sudden ‘change of furniture’? It was rumoured that Bernard had rejected, without further ado, a redundancy plan for 39 people (according to La Voix du Nord). Brothers-at-war more than brothers-in-arms.

At the historic glass manufacturer Arques (today renamed Arc International), it was a fratricidal war that left large cracks in the glass manufacturer’s business. At his death, Jacques Durand, still epitomised today as a model owner, handed over the company reins to his son Philippe, who in turn decided to diversify towards the top end of the market (under the brand names Salvaiti and Mikasa)… against the advice of his brother Jean-Jacques and his sister Catherine. Until then, the company’s capital was divided between Odette, Jacques Durand’s widow, and their five children: Philippe, Jean-Jacques, Francine, Annick and Catherine. In 1999, it was Jean-Jacques and Catherine who opened the way and sold his part of the family shares. Six years later, it was the turn of Francine to sell her shares worth an estimated 300 million Euros per share… You can just imagine the atmosphere around the family table at mealtime!

In the family « I did it for the children », DailyNord investigates…

The Doublets, specialists in flags and the staging of events. This time it’s grandma, who, ruined by Russian bonds, began to manufacture religious pennants. Her grandchild, Luc Doublet, has today expanded the business with daughter companies in Japan, Spain, Poland and California. The family group, based at Avelin near Lille, is today the European leader in the field (300 employees generating a turnover of 42 million Euros), and in the process of being passed down to the fourth generation, i.e. to Luc Doublet’s children.

The Barons have a similar story to tell. When Philippe Baron founded Infautelec in 1983, a small Calais company specialising in industrial electricity, nothing foretold that 30 years later, the group would comprise eight different companies with a combined turnover of 20 million Euros and 250 employees. The Baron Group, specialists in the design and manufacture of industrial and production line equipment, is not about to be sold. Self-made Philippe Baron shares his know-how and responsibilities with his two children, Stéphanie, 26, who works in public relations and François, 23, in computer services. That should increase the fire power of a group that hopes to break into the US, Brazilian and even Chinese markets.

In the family « We were pioneers », DailyNord investigates…

Boulonnais Quarries: their slogan could be « all for six and six for all! » Since 1896, Boulonnais Quarries have been handed down from father to son. Today, Franck and Gilles Poulain run the family business that specialises in aggregates and concrete, reinforced by not less than members of the family in the company’s organisational chart. To think that all this began with Auguste Poulain, a marble merchant, who ended up running a quarry in the Boulonnais region… He was succeeded by his sons Michel and Georges, then his grandson Daniel with his wife Béatrice and today his great-grandsons: Franck and Gilles, co-directors, and Olivier, in charge of large projects as well as three daughters (long live sex-equality), Dominique, Cécile and Dorothée, who sit on the supervisory board. And of course, it’s grandad, Daniel Poulain, who is chairman of the board. The family is not only highly productive when it comes to offspring as the Boulonnais Quarries generate an annual turnover of around 220 million Euros and employs 1,000 people.

Under the title ‘pioneers families’, the Roquettes also have their rightful place. At the end of the First World War, Domenica and Germain were grain merchants. In collaboration with an engineer at ICAM, they set up a potato starch factory in Lestrem in 1933. Followed by a starch and sorbitol factory for agri-foodstuffs … and continual innovation not only in the food industry for human and animal consumption but also in the pharmacy and biochemistry industries, Roquette is establishing itself little by little in Europe, the United States, Asia and South America. The enterprise, today a spearhead on the international scene with a turnover of nearly 2 billion Euros and 3,500 employees worldwide, is still run by a Roquette, Edouard, worthy successor of his cousin Marc.

Click here to see the original article in French


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1 Commentaire

  1. Very good translation – faithful to the original whilst sounding as if original has been written in English – bravo!

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