Xavier Niel’s keys to managing his vast empire

Xavier Niel’s keys to managing his vast empire

Xavier Niel’s keys to managing his vast empire

Xavier Niel’s keys to managing his vast empire

Xavier Niel is at the head of a huge empire going far beyond Free and telecoms. The 53-year-old billionaire has his own way of managing it. It is based in particular on the loyalty of its employees and partners.

The empire of Xavier Niel, the father of Free, is vast and continues to expand while diversifying beyond telecoms, with recent examples of investments in the sectors of agriculture, catering, horse press or vegetable meat. Despite the complexity, the machine is also well oiled, as our colleagues from Capital show.


In such a busy life, there is no question of wasting time. Speaking example, during a business meeting at a restaurant, Xavier Niel does not procrastinate in front of the menu and is content to take the same thing as his guest. In another register, life is simplified by alternating between two uniforms: jeans and t-shirt or suit and shirt. We also know that Free’s daddy manages his 2,000 daily e-mails himself. A server with suitable filters (personal, Free, press, etc.) also ensures more efficient management.

This desire for optimization is also found in travel. Xavier Niel can opt for a taxi as well as for a scooter, depending on the choice that appears most practical at that time. It is also illustrated in a public presentation like the one for the launch of the Freebox Pop in July 2020, “Rewritten 40 times and repeated daily for a week”, explains the marketing director of Free Camille Perrin.

Go to the front and make decisions

Xavier Niel does not hesitate to wet the jersey, whether for the launch of 5G with the video where he gets a bucket of water on his head, but also to meet the developers on the fifth floor. in order to report a technical bug.

This aspect was also found in his anger at Eric Fottori.no, ex-director of the director of Le Monde, treaty of “parasite” before being pushed out, or in his sling against commercial lease manager Unibail with the chain of calls to investors and murderous interviews. Alain Minc, advisor on the Unibail file, also underlines that this appears to be a “First raid” during which he “Seems to have had a lot of fun”.

To be responsive, Xavier Niel leaves room. “Xavier forces himself to leave a large part of his agenda open, it allows him to adapt and remain available. He travels everywhere, he needs to feel things, to discuss ”, explains Matthieu Pigasse, one of his long-time business associates.

An army of loyal collaborators and partners

To help him in his daily life, Xavier Niel can count on an army of faithful, such as Thomas Renaud, the current CEO, present in the group for 14 years. The most telling example remains his secretary Agnès Quinchon, at his side since the days of pink Minitel services more than 30 years ago. The strong man of Free also knows how to bring a person back into his sphere after a disagreement. Example: the resigning director general Michaël Boukobza Golan left for Israel, quickly returned when he was called upon. It can finally count on its recurring partners when it comes to investing. We can cite Mathieu Pigasse, in the field of media and content, or the Pariente family, in the field of real estate.

Xavier Niel is also thinking of renewing his sphere of collaborators and partners. He thus asked a head hunter to find the profiles for the management of his company HoldCo which he owns 100% and represents half of Iliad’s capital. Mid-2020, his choice fell on Aude Durand, quite competent because of his background (Stanford), but not too formatted either (28 years old).

In terms of management, Xavier Niel gives freedom, but expects results and does not hesitate to recall it. “The obligation of result and a total investment are the logical counterparts of the independence that it leaves us”, explains Louis Dreyfus

A model

The 53-year-old billionaire is an example in the eyes of some. “Everyone recognizes him as a role model”, recalls Xicolas Dufourcq, at the head of Bpifrance.

Source: Capital (paper version)

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