Albert Frere, who was still involved in Belgian investment holding company Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL) – the company he developed – has died at the age of 92.
“Albert Frere, honorary chairman and co-controlling shareholder of the company, passed away today,” GBL said in a statement on its website on Monday.
“For more than three decades, under his leadership, GBL became one of the largest holdings in Europe. His professional and human qualities have deeply marked our group, ” the statement went on to say.
A nose for business
Born in 1926 near French-speaking Charleroi, Belgium’s richest man according to the Forbes list, started his career by dropping out of school to develop his parents’ business, which initially sold nails, chains and other items of ironmongery, before getting involved in steel.
By the 1970s his company controlled almost all steel production in Belgium. In the 1980s, as the steel sector deteriorated, he switched into investment holdings, turning GBL into a firm that generates income solely from the payment of dividends, rent or interest.
GBL has had stakes in many major European companies, like oil producer Total, building company LafargeHolcim, Adidas and drinks maker Pernod-Ricard.
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A business associate, Henry Kravis of KKR & Co in New York, told Bloomberg that Frere had an “uncanny timing in making investments.”
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In 2015, Frere – who once said he wanted to keep working until he turned 100 – stepped down as a director of GBL and GBL’s Swiss-based shareholder. He remained honorary chairman of GBL.
He is survived by two children, his son Gerald, chairman of GBL and his daughter Segolene, who is on the board of GBL. His other son, Charles-Albert, died in a car crash in 1999, aged 19.
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