French tycoon killed in UK plane crash

8th December 2003, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 7 (AFP) - French political and corporate leaders paid homage Sunday to Paul-Louis Halley, a billionaire businessman who turned his father's grocery business into a European retail giant that ranks second only to US mammoth Wal-Mart.

PARIS, Dec 7 (AFP) - French political and corporate leaders paid homage Sunday to Paul-Louis Halley, a billionaire businessman who turned his father's grocery business into a European retail giant that ranks second only to US mammoth Wal-Mart.

The 69-year-old tycoon died Saturday along with his wife and the pilot when his small private plane flipped over and slammed into the ground when it was landing in central England.

Halley, one of the principal shareholders in Carrefour, Europe's largest retail chain, was ranked as the seventh richest person in France. His total worth was estimated at
EUR 3.1 billion (USD 3.8 billion), according to the magazine Challenges.

Halley, who firmly protected his privacy, owned 11 percent of the company's shares and 17 percent of the voting rights. He had a place on the firm's board and chaired its strategy committee.

French Economy Minister Francis Mer expressed his "emotion" at hearing of Halley's death, who he said "carried the image of French enterprise to the four corners of the world," a spokesman said.

His comments echoed those of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who Saturday described Halley as "a brilliant figure in the world of French business."

Carrefour's chief executive and chairman, Daniel Bernard, spoke of his "immense sadness" over the death of Halley, hailing in a statement "his wisdom, his simplicity and his great humility".

Halley, a father of three, took up residence in Belgium in 2000 to escape French taxes, shortly before selling his family's business Promodes to Carrefour for 16 billion dollars, according to a 2001 issue of Business Week magazine.

His father had started out with a grocery store in France's Normandy region, and Halley began as a sales manager. In 1961, he, his father and his brother Robert brought in two wholesale businesses to make what would be known as Promodes, which the following year opened its first supermarket, near Paris.

From there, it built a series of chains aimed at different shoppers, riding the French trend for "hypermarkets" - giant supermarkets - as well as starting two chains of corner shops.

Halley took over from his father in 1972 and strongly developed the business over the following 25 years, opening outlets to Belgium, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain and Turkey, floating it on the Paris stockmarket, and building it into Europe's biggest grocery chain.

After an unsuccessful 1996 bid to buy a rival, Casino, Halley agreed in 1999 to merge Promodes with another competitor, Carrefour.

The buy-out left him seriously rich and left him with time to take up positions in other French institutions, among them the Bank of France, the bank BNP-Paribas and the French-Belgian bank Dexia.

© AFP

                                                                Subject: French news

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