Obituary: Francis Bouygues

Francis Georges Bouygues, industrialist, film producer; born Paris 5 December 1922; Founder President and Director- General, Societe Bouygues 1951-89; Chairman, Societe Commerciale d'Affretements et de Combustibles (SCAC) 1978-93; Vice-President, Fondation pour Entreprendre 1986-93; married 1946 Monique Teze (three sons, one daughter); died Saint-Coulomb, Ille- et-Vilaine 24 July 1993.

IT IS a story that astonishes everyone. And everyone is delighted to be astonished. A man borrows a modest sum of money from his father and from his father-in-law. He founds a building company with 10 workers, and he runs it from a small flat in the suburbs of Paris. Forty years later he has more than 80,000 people working for him and his company is worth nearly 80,000 million francs. This is the story of Francis Bouygues.

There was much else that caused Bouygues to be a national hero in France. Although he was born in Paris, he always spoke of himself as coming from Auvergne, like his grandfather, and being, like all Auvergnats, reluctant to spend money. When he acquired the privatised television company TF1 he had to write out a very hefty cheque, and as people congratulated him on winning the battle to win TF1 he would reply, 'I'm from Auvergne, do you think I enjoyed signing that cheque?' He was very much a family man, and went to considerable lengths to keep his enterprises as a family business. It was a blow to him when his son Nicholas left the company.

But as a father he could be difficult and he had fits of anger which have been described as 'Homeric'. He was often pessimistic and viewed any new enterprise in a gloomy manner. And he was also innocent. When he moved into television he met people who were famous throughout France, but he had no idea who they were. When he moved into producing films it is said that on being introduced to Jeanne Moreau he asked her what she did 'dans la vie'. But he was patient, and was very far from being an all- dominant, interfering personality.

Francis Bouygues qualified as an engineer at the Ecole Central in Paris. It is said that the first contract given to his firm was the renovation of a sugar refinery in the Paris suburbs, but it was in the late 1960s that the big expansion began, when he built the present Parc des Princes with more than 50,000 seats. Bouygues moved into the provinces and abroad, particularly to the Middle East. Not everyone likes the hypermarkets or the American-style commercial centres (like that at Parly II) that now mark the entrance to most French towns, and not everyone likes the towers at Nanterre or Bagnolet. But they were built by Bouygues. More successful is La Defense, with its giant arch, the original airport of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, and the congress centre at the Porte Maillot. He himself was particularly proud of the bridge that links the Ile de Re to mainland France, and the extremely modern and daring building that became his headquarters at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.

Naturally, Bouygues was attacked. It was said that he was a political intriguer in order to get contracts. Socialists claimed that TF1 had a bias against them, but it was a Socialist Minister of Finance, Jacques Delors, who presented Bouygues in 1982 with the award of the best manager in business. Naturally Bouygues had his failures, particularly with his film-production firm Ciby 2000, which he formed in 1990. But at the last film festival in Cannes it was his film La Lecon that won the highest award.

Stories about Bouygues abound. It is said that when he won the contract to build the University of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, a cheque for dollars 343m was flown by Concorde, to be deposited in a New York bank. But it was agreed that when the work was finished the money would be transferred to Bouygues in francs. When this happened the dollar had increased in value by more than 40 per cent. It was what the Franch call 'Le Jackpot'.

(Photograph omitted)

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 People

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried