French politics

French billionaire, lawmaker Olivier Dassault dies in helicopter crash

Olivier Dassault, an MP with the right-wing Les Republicains, died Sunday in a helicopter crash.
Olivier Dassault, an MP with the right-wing Les Republicains, died Sunday in a helicopter crash. © Ludovic Marin/AFP/File

France’s political class has been paying tribute to MP Olivier Dassault, an heir to Dassault Aviation, a leading French plane manufacturer, who was killed Sunday in a helicopter crash.

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French President Emmanuel Macron called Dassault’s death a great loss. Dassault, 69, who was an MP with the right-wing Les Republicains party since 2002, representing the Oise area, “loved France”, tweeted Macron. “Throughout his life he never stopped serving our country".

Dassault died when his helicopter, an Aerospatiale AS350 Ecureuil, crashed around 6pm near Toques, not far from the coastal resort of Deauville, in northwest France.

France's civil aviation Bureau of Investigations and Analysis said in a tweet that the crash had occurred shortly after take-off from "private grounds".

The pilot was reportedly also killed, but no one else was on board. Prosecutors have opened an investigation into involuntary manslaughter.

Homages

French Prime Minister Jean Castex called Dassault "a humanist MP, a visionary entrepreneur, a man deeply committed to his country".

He was the grandson of aviation engineer Marcel Bloch, who helped to develop an innovative propeller used on French aircraft in World War I. Bloch changed his name to Dassault, which means "on the attack" in French.

His son, Serge, took control of Dassault Aviation after his death. Dassault built the Falcon private jet, the Mirage warplane, and most recently the Rafale fighter.

When Serge Dassault died of heart failure in 2018, he had not named anyone to succeed him. He had named his son, Olivier, as the head of the group’s advisory board in 2011, putting him in a position to take over the family business, but Olivier resigned because of a conflict of interest with his role as an MP.

Billionaires

The Dassaults are one of the most wealthy families of France. As well as a majority stake in the aviation group, they own a vineyard in Bordeaux and the right-wing daily newspaper Le Figaro.

Forbes magazine estimated that Olivier Dassault was the 361st wealthiest person in the world in 2020, with a fortune estimated at around five billion euros.

(with AFP)

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