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FRANCE

Former tyre giant boss François Michelin dies, aged 88

A Michelin F1 tyre
A Michelin F1 tyre Open access/Willtron

The former boss of France’s Michelin tyre company, François Michelin, has died at the age of 88. He brought the company to world dominance by launching the production of radial tyres but also brought it close to ruin during the second oil crisis and in the late 1980s when it expanded to the US.

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François Michelin's moment of glory came with his decision to override opposition within the company and produce the world's first radial tyres.

The move transformed the family-run company, based in the Auvergne city of Clermont-Ferrand, to a world leader in the field and bringing its famous symbol, Bibendum - known as the Michelin Man in the English-speaking world - to garages around the globe.

But there were bad moments, too.

The company seriously underestimated the effect of the second oil crisis in the 1980s, overinvesting and ending up heavily in debt.

That forced the company to seek a four-billion-franc loan from the state, despite François Michelin's strongly held free-market convictions.

There was more financial trouble after the company struck a poor deal when buying into the US market with the purchase of Uniroyal Goodrich.

The problems led to the Clermont workforce being cut from 30,000 to 15,000 in the space of 20 years.

François was the grandson of the company's founder Edouard and passed on control to his son, who was named after the founder.

An ardent Catholic, François was politically and socially conservative, denouncing France's labour law as "Marxist-inspired" and criticising the employers' union, CNPF, for making too many concessions during the 1968 general strike and student uprising.

François Michelin, a life in dates:

1926: Born in Clermont-Ferrand to Etienne Michelin and Madeleine Callies;
1936: Mother dies;
1940: Father dies, he is raised by his aunt, Marthe Rollier, a widow;
1951: Starts work in the family firm under an assumed name doing various manual and clerical jobs for four years;
1955: Becomes joint managing director with Robert Puiseux, who is related to the family by marriage;
1959: Becomes sole managing director;
1963: Birth of his son, Edouard Michelin;
1999: Hands over running the business to Edouard;
2006: Edouard Michelin dies in an accident, Michel Rollier becomes company chief;
2009: Awarded Légion d’honneur;
2015: Dies at the age of 88.
 

 

 

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