ho is france’s greatest capitalist? Americans might think this question is the beginning of a joke. Those who take it seriously may finger Vincent Bolloré, who over nearly four decades has built an empire spanning African ports and French pipelines, pay-tv, electric cars, the world’s biggest music label and much else besides. On May 29th the 67-year-old stepped down from the board of Bolloré sa, the holding company at his complex empire’s core. At an annual meeting outside Paris, he air-kissed fawning shareholders one last time and, as a parting gift, gave each one three bottles of wine (from a Bolloré vineyard).
With sales of €23bn ($25.6bn) and 81,000 employees around the globe, Bolloré Group testifies to its boss’s knack for business. A more sober assessment of his reign reveals a complicated legacy. The tycoon emerges as a flawed exemplar of capitalism. His heirs should draw lessons.