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OBITUARY

French billionaire Serge Dassault dies aged 93

One of France's richest men, Serge Dassault, died on Monday after suffering a suspected heart attack, his family said. He was 93.

French billionaire Serge Dassault dies aged 93
Serge Dassault. Photo: AFP
Dassault, head of aviation, media and software giant Dassault Group, was a titan of the French business world who served as a right-wing senator and a scandal-plagued mayor of a town south of the capital.
   
France's third wealthiest person in 2016 — with a net worth estimated by Forbes magazine at $14.8 billion (12.7 billion euros) — died in his Paris office on the Champs-Elysees on Monday afternoon, his family said.
   
Dassault is best known as the principal stakeholder of Dassault Aviation, which has made a series of famed French planes, including the Falcon business jet, the Mirage fighter and the country's most cutting-edge military jet, the Rafale.
 
“France has a lost a man who dedicated his life to developing a jewel of French industry,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement that came amid a flurry of tributes. 
   
Nicolas Sarkozy, whom Dassault strongly backed when as France's president, paid tribute to a “friend” who he said was a “visionary able to anticipate the 
world to come without losing the meaning of the present.”
   
Dassault, a workaholic who is survived by four children and his wife Nicole, also owned France's biggest-selling right-wing newspaper, Le Figaro.
 
Serge Dassault (C) with Nicolas Sarkozy (R) in 2005. Photo: AFP
 
Wealth from war
 
The Dassault family's business empire was founded by his father Marcel, an aeronautical engineer and celebrated inventor who developed a propeller used in French planes during World War I. 
   
Marcel survived the Buchenwald death camp during World War II after being sent there by occupying Nazi forces because he refused to put his skills at their disposal.
 
Arrested along with the rest of his family by the Gestapo as a teenager, Serge narrowly avoided deportation and would go on to pursue studies at elite French universities before entering the family business in his twenties.
   
He finally succeeded his father after his death in 1986, taking the helm of the family group at the age of 61 when most people are thinking of retiring.
   
Defying opposition from the French government, which doubted that he was up to the task, he developed Dassault at a time of consolidation in the European 
aerospace industry and severe competition from US manufacturers. 
   
The Rafale plane, in use in the skies above Iraq and most recently during French strikes on chemical weapons installations in Syria, is considered one of the world's most advanced fighter jets.
 
Photo: AFP
 
Scandals and corruption
 
As well as his business interests, Dassault pursued a political career like his father — leading to scandal.
 
In February this year, he was convicted of tax fraud for hiding millions of euros in Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and the Virgin Islands.
 
Dassault was spared jail because of his advanced age, but he was fined two million euros and barred from holding elected office for five years. 
   
In April 2014, he was also charged with vote-buying, complicity in illegal election campaign financing and exceeding campaign spending limits over his terms as mayor in the Parisian suburb of Corbeil-Essonnes.
   
The case revealed a shocking series of allegations including extortion, cash circulating in plastic bags and even shootings. 
   
Dassault, a social conservative who once called gay marriage “an enormous danger to the country”, was mayor of the town from 1995 to 2009. 
   
In 1998, Dassault received a two-year suspended prison sentence in Belgium for bribing members of the country's Socialist Party to win an army helicopter contract in what became known as the Agusta scandal.
   
His death will lead to speculation over who in the family will succeed him as head of his company.
   
His son Olivier is a rightwing lawmaker in parliament but Dassault has had often strained relations with his offspring — again like his father Marcel who was often harsh with his sons.
   
“When I started in the company I sensed that it irritated him,” Dassault once said of his father in an interview with VSD magazine.

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OBITUARY

Former France football coach Henri Michel dies aged 70

Former France football coach Henri Michel, who led Les Bleus to the 1984 Olympic title, has died at the age of 70, the French footballers' union (UNFP) announced on Tuesday.

Former France football coach Henri Michel dies aged 70
Photo: AFP
“Henri Michel, a colossus of French football, left us this morning,” the UNFP wrote on Twitter, adding their “sincere condolences to his family and friends”.
   
Born in Aix-en-Provence, Michel played in midfield for Nantes and earned 58 international caps between 1967 and 1980. He was a three-time winner of the French league title.
   
He took over France's Olympic men's squad in 1982, guiding them to the '84 gold medal in Los Angeles where they beat Brazil in the final.
   
Michel then took over a France team containing Michel Platini which had just won the European Championships under the management of Michel Hidalgo.
 
Photo: AFP   
 
“What terrible news,” Hidalgo said after being informed of Michel's death by AFP.
   
“I knew he'd had health problems but I hadn't realised how serious they were.
   
“He was a great friend, a true professional, a great guy in every respect.”
   
Under Michel, France made it through to the 1986 World Cup semi-finals where they lost 2-0 to West Germany.
   
Michel's time at the helm came to an unhappy end when his team failed to qualify for Euro 1988 and then drew 1-1 with modest Cyprus in a 1990 World Cup qualifier.
   
Following his time with France, Michel had a brief spell as coach of Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the 1990s, before managing a host of African teams, going to three further World Cups with Cameroon (1994), Morocco (1998) and Ivory Coast (2006).
   
His last post was a stay of a few months with Kenya in 2012.
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