Obituary: Paul Ricard

Paul Louis Marius Ricard: born Sainte-Marthe-Marseilles, France 9 July 1909: married 1937 Marie-Therese Thiers (two sons, three daughters); died Signes, France 7 November 1997.

In the late 1920s, Paul Ricard concocted an aniseed-based drink in a laboratory and went on to market it, brilliantly, as an old Provencal tradition. In doing so, he developed another idea, sports sponsorship, and his name became the most ubiquitous in France. Yellow and blue Ricard advertising signs, cycling caps, ashtrays and water jugs became as much a part of the landscape of post-war France as the Citroen Deux Chevaux or the motorised bicycle. One of Ricard's proudest achievements was to have two Ricard jugs smuggled into the grotto at Lourdes.

Ricard was a classically French figure, famously bad-tempered but also famously generous. In other ways, he was at odds with French tradition: a great entrepreneur and a great salesman, who detested the power of the French state and bureaucracy, which he called the "mediocrate". In a fit of temper with state controls, he resigned from day-to-day activities in his company in 1968. Under his younger son, Patrick, the firm continued to prosper, merging with Pernod in 1975. Pernod-Ricard is now the third largest spirits company in the world.

The young Paul Ricard, born in 1909 in a Provencal hill village later swallowed up by the suburbs of Marseilles, dreamed of being a painter. His father insisted that he must join the family wine business, which he did at the age of 17. In his autobiography, La Passion de Creer (1983), he told how he was first introduced to home-made pastis, otherwise known as "the thing" or "tiger's milk", by an old shepherd. All aniseed-based spirits had been banned in 1915, because they were suspected of undermining the French war effort. None-theless, the young Ricard began to experiment in a laboratory with a more refined version, using, among other things, fennel seeds and Provencal herbs (the exact recipe is a secret, which has never been written down).

After test-marketing his product illegally in the bars of Marseilles, Ricard was well-placed when the prohibition on milder forms of aniseed spirits was lifted in 1932. He sold his invention nationwide as the "authentic pastis of Marseilles", quickly overtaking the older-established companies like Pernod.

During the Second World War pastis was again banned by the Vichy regime as "contrary to the values" of the new high-Catholic, high-bourgeois collaborationist France. Ricard retreated to the wilds of the Camargue region, where he experimented successfully with rice farming. He also put his experience as a clandestine distiller to good use, turning plums and cherries into an alcoholic petrol-substitute for the resistance. He would also, it is claimed, tear around the Camargue on horse-back, shouting: "J'emmerde le marechal Petain et son gouvernement" ("I shit on Marshal Petain and his government").

After the war, Ricard, the man and the drink, resumed their extraordinary career. The success owed much to a young man called Charles Pasqua, who was hired as a travelling salesman in 1952 and rose to be marketing director. Pasqua, an irascible, humorous man in Ricard's own image, later became one of the pillars of Gaullism and, on two occasions, the French interior minister.

Long before it was fashionable, Ricard spread the benefits of his success to his employees. A portion of the profits each year was converted into shares and distributed to the workers. When the company was floated on the Bourse in 1962, many of the older employees discovered that they were very rich people.

Ricard became a sponsor of the Tour de France from the early Fifties, before sports-sponsorship was understood, in Europe at least, as an effective advertising vehicle. The company later invested in yachting (a passion of Ricard's) and Formula One motor-racing. He built the track at Le Castellet, sometimes used for the French Grand Prix, which now carries his name.

After resigning from daily involvement in the company nearly 30 years ago, Ricard returned to his first love, painting. He became mayor of the small town of Signes, east of Marseilles, near the Le Castellet track. He took up the fight against the pollution of the Mediterranean - again, long before it was a fashionable cause.

Ricard was sometimes criticised by doctors and road safety campaigners for contributing to the high levels of alcohol consumption in France. He remained unapologetic to the end. He once served a journalist from Le Monde with a large glass of Ricard. "Don't worry," he said. "The only people that I know who are dying off are the water drinkers."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone