Baron-Metallurgist: how fortune richest people of Belgium

After a series of attacks in Brussels on Tuesday was closed to the capital airport Zaventem. Most likely, in the near future it will resume, but it is clear that the passenger traffic and airport revenues will fall. Among other entrepreneurs, who will suffer from the closure of the airport, was the richest Belgian, according to Forbes, albert frère is the owner of the company Duty Free International (IDF), managing duty free shops at the airports of Brussels and Charleroi.

According to the magazine Forbes, the past three years, the state of albert Frers, has remained at about $4.9 billion — in spite of the sale of some interests and the purchase of the other. In 2016, the publication once again has approved a businessman, the richest man in Belgium. Among the rich around the world 286 Frere takes place.

In terms of the organizational structure of key asset Frers is holding, CNP — that he somehow accumulates all the interests of a billionaire in almost three dozen companies. The rest of the leading company for Frers remains GBL (Groupe Bruxelles Lambert, or). With a market value of €11.5 billion exactly GBL is one of the largest holding companies in Europe. In addition, in its current form the business Frers began with the purchase of GBL in the early 1980-ies.

In February 2015, the day before her 89 birthday, albert frère has announced his retirement as CEO of GBL and of the Board of Directors of the holding company. Leaving no successor, it continues to affect the state of Affairs in the company via new Manager Ian Giana (who is his son-in-law) and through the Board of Directors of GBL. The Council includes his grandson Cedric, and is headed by the eldest son of billionaire Gerard Frere.

Rural bourgeois

Future the wealthiest man in Belgium, albert Frere was born in February 1926 in Fontaine-l’eveque in Wallonia is the southern French-speaking part of the country. A small town is one of the suburbs of Charleroi, where the businessman is still alive.

Parents Frers little is known, and the businessman tries not to talk about his past. According to Forbes, the Frers father died when his son was 17 years old, after which albert left school and continued the family business — trade with nails, chains and other hardware. Otherwise describes the youth of billionaire his biographer, French journalist at Le Monde josé-Alain Fralon.

In 1997 Malon published a book called “albert Frere, the son of a merchant of nails”. It follows from this that the father of the future tycoon Oscar Frere died of pneumonia in 1930, when her son was only four years. After this the reins of the family business (which was then called Frere-Bourgeois) took his mother Madeleine and her brother Leons, an employee of a local Bank.

Family Prerov in the 1930-ies was a small rural bourgeoisie. “I remember I had a hat, and always when we were walking down the street, I was forced to remove her to greet the noble residents of the city,” recalled then the Frere. His youth fell on the period of the German occupation of Belgium, when hundreds of thousands of Belgians taken for forced labor in Germany. Despite the occupation, Frere continued to attend College in the neighboring town Morlanwelz, 7 km from the native Fontaine-l Eweka.

Only in 1943, at the age of 17, albert frère left school, closely having been engaged in a family business. The year after American troops began the operation to liberate Belgium, which he successfully completed in February 1945, the 19th birthday of a young businessman. It is unknown whether the Frere collaborated with the occupiers or, conversely, helped the Resistance movement. But in the early 1940s, he was busy creating based production a major regional player.

Wine of cement

The duty free shops at the airports of Brussels and Charleroi — two main asset International Duty Free (IDF), which is wholly owned by the group Compagnie Nationale a Portefeuille CNP or. In turn, the holders of 94.3% of the CNP is a group of Frere-Bourgeois headed by billionaire albert frère. The remaining 5.7% of CNP managers are owned by the holding company, among which are the grandson of businessman Cedric frère (occupying the position of Director of CNP on investment).

Duty free shopping is only a part of a diversified investment Frers Empire, which includes stakes in industrial, energy and financial corporations, TV channels and wineries. In Frers portfolio primarily comprises assets in the Francophone regions of Europe: in Belgium, Switzerland and France.

Holding CNP directly owned (50% or more) the trader Astra Transcore, winery “Chateau Cheval Blanc” (with LVMH), the investment company Fidentia real estate sales consultant and Distriplus. Small CNP has shares in French private channel M6, the company’s cybersecurity Trasys, restaurants group FLO, a Swiss advertising company APG and the Milan investment Bank Banca Leonardo.

Through a holding company GBL main asset Frers is a French company which mines and produces industrial minerals Imerys (53,2% of shares). In addition, through GBL businessman has small shares in the cement manufacturer Lafarge, the house wine Pernod Ricard, as well as French energy giant Total (the share of 2.9%) and ENGIE (former GDF Suez, the share of 2.3%). Previously owned by GBL stake in GDF Suez amounted to more than 5%, but in the spring of 2013 albert Frere has sold more than half of their papers, raising it to €1 billion and crashing quotes the French concern.

In 2015, the holding company GBL albert Frers has acquired 3% of German sportswear manufacturer adidas, and subsequently increased stake to 4.7%. Accordingly in March 2016, Frere was member of the Supervisory Board of adidas.

How the steel was tempered

The region around Charleroi is the informal name of “Black earth”, as one of the largest in Western Europe centers of the coal and steel industry. After five years of occupation and fierce battles in the Ardennes sector was in ruins. By the early 1950’s, the Frere has collected in their hands a hardware manufacture in Charleroi and the surrounding region, decided to invest directly in the steel industry, make her the main direction of the family business.

This strategy Frere chose watching the international agenda. One of the largest manufacturers of steel in the middle of the twentieth century was Korea, but in the early 1950-ies in the country there was a fierce civil war, which threatened the supply of steel to the world market. In the United States in 1952 was a two-month strike of the Steelworkers, and even the preventive decision of President Harry Truman to nationalize the industry didn’t help to avoid it. In Belgium in 1950 the political crisis around the return to the throne of the unpopular king Leopold III also led to a prolonged workers ‘ strike.

Looking at these events, Frere realised that steel prices in the global market will grow. For him as a consumer of metal it was not profitable, and Frere decided to start pouring the steel itself. Many Litani after the war were in a dilapidated condition than the Belgian took advantage of it.

In 1954, through a friend of the Deputy Jacques van der Sharena (later became the Minister of Economics of Belgium) frère has made the loan of one of the state banks in the amount of 40 million francs (about $8 million in current prices). The money went to the purchase and restoration of the factory in Monceau-sur-Sambre near Charleroi. Over the next ten years, production at the plant has increased tenfold.

In the 1960-1970-ies the Frere was engaged in active absorption of Belgian industrial companies. As noted by his biographer Fremont, businessman always think about their actions beforehand, but after it has not been stopped. It is likely that this aggressiveness he owes his low origin. According to biographer Frers Fralon, one day, faced with a strike of Steelworkers, Frere approached trade Union leader and told him in the local dialect: “Look, son, it’s my money and I do what you like with them”.

As noted in 1999, the British Financial Times, along with the boldness of the success of the Frers has been the ability to find reliable allies and the ability to feel the market. For example, in the 1950s, the leading partner of the Belgian became a French investment Bank Paribas. Now formed in its place BNP Paribas continues to be important as a co-investor in holdings Frers.

Honorary Baron

By the late 1970s the assets of the Frers have accumulated about half of the entire steel industry of Belgium, a leader in the three largest steel companies in the country. However, since mid-decade amid a global recession, the industry went into a deep crisis, so that Frere did not oppose the government’s decision to systematically increase its share in the top three manufacturers, since 1979.

For several years, the government in several stages bought all the metallurgical facilities of Frers for the substantial compensation: in sum, they amounted to about 2 billion francs ($140 million in current prices). The businessman was pleased with the results: the state willingly bought his company, while competitors Frers needed a multibillion-dollar aid to avoid bankruptcy.

On the gained amount in 1982 frères and bought investment group of GBL, who then became his largest and most important asset. In later years he came to the conclusion that the best way of structuring investments is the cascade system where the share in a public company belongs to him through consistent control of several private companies. The current structure of the holding company GBL is a Prime example.

As the FT notes, in his homeland, albert frère is not a national hero: many subjects of the Kingdom believe that the billionaire “has sold Belgium”, freed in 1980-ies of the Belgian assets and has since been investing mainly in France and partly in Switzerland. “Yes, first of all, I’m Belgian, but I am also European. if we aspire to a unified Europe, national barriers should be removed”, — parried the Frere.

Albert Frere is in the truest sense of the word a citizen of the European Union: not only because of their nationality (Brussels, capital of Belgium, is also considered the unofficial capital of the EU), but also because of the origin of his wealth. In 1952, when Frere was thinking about entering the metallurgical market, Western European countries created the European coal and steel community, the Foundation of the future of the European Union. The removal of trade barriers has helped Frere to build the continent’s first steel, and then financial Empire.

In 1994, the businessman received from the new king of Belgium albert the honorary title of Baron in recognition of his accomplishments for the country. Many years later, in 2008, the importance of economic relations with Belgium and stressed French President Nicolas Sarkozy, awarding Frers highest degree the highest award of the country: the Grand cross of the Legion of Honor. After a few months the Frere helped to hold one of the largest transactions in your life — the Union of oil and gas companies Gas de France and Suez as a major shareholder and Vice-President of Suez. Now the market value of a share of Frers in the joint concern ENGIE (formerly GDF Suez) is estimated at €790 million.

Albert frère in numbers

$4.9 billion — the condition of albert Frers in March 2016

€11.5 billion is the market capitalization of the holding company GBL on the stock exchange in Brussels

40 million francs — the first loan Frers in 1954

€14.7 billion is the market value of key investments GBL

670 thousand liters of alcohol implement Frere-owned Duty Free per year

39 hectares of vineyards occupy a co-owner of which is the Frere

Sources: Forbes, Jose-Alain Fralon, company data