PARIS, April 29 — Francois Michelin, who led the eponymous French tyre group for nearly half a century, died at the age of 88, the Clermont-Ferrand-based company said today.
“We have learned today with deep emotion that Mr. Francois Michelin has passed away,” a Michelin statement said, without giving further details.
“Mr. Francois Michelin dedicated his life to the company. He headed it for 47 years, when he handed over the reins to his son Edouard. A visionary and a humanitarian, (he) tirelessly embodied the values of respect that are the very foundation of our Group’s identity,” the statement said.
Michelin became director of the company in 1955, and helped transform it into one of the world’s top three tyre manufacturers alongside Bridgestone and Goodyear.
In 1999 Michelin vacated the group’s top spot to make way for Edouard, whose 2006 drowning death during a boating incident left France stunned.
Famous for a discretion that earned him the title of “France’s most secretive boss” by the national press, Francois Michelin was one of several family members who directed the company founded in 1889 by his grandfather.
Capable of inspiring respect and fear in equal measure, Michelin was generally hailed as one of the country’s most accomplished industrialists, and the champion of a company and product whose name is closely associated with France itself.
“Francois Michelin carried the values of French industry on high across the world: innovation, vision, discipline and passion,” tweeted French Prime Minister Manuel Valls at word of his death.
“On behalf of the Group’s employees, I would like to pay special tribute to this exceptional man who was universally respected for his values, his convictions, and his vision,” said Jean-Dominique Senard, Michelin’s current chairman. — AFP