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Financial investor Albert Frère passes away
Richest Belgian

Financial investor Albert Frère passes away

by AFP, translated from French by LT staff 2 min. 03.12.2018 From our online archive
Through his investments, Albert Frère also played a key role in Luxembourg for decades
Belgium's richest man, multi-billionaire entrepreneur Albert Frère, has died aged 92. Photo: AFP
Belgium's richest man, multi-billionaire entrepreneur Albert Frère, has died aged 92. Photo: AFP

Belgian financial investor Albert Frère passed away at the age of 92, his holding company 'Groupe Bruxelles Lambert' (GBL) announced on Monday. Albert Frère was the richest Belgian citizen with an estimated private wealth of around €4.1 billion, according to the business magazine 'Forbes'.

"GBL has the sad duty to announce the death of Albert Frère. For more than three decades, GBL has developed under his leadership into one of the most important holding companies in Europe. His human and professional qualities have changed our group of companies in the long term," the company said in a statement. GBL has been listed on the stock exchange for more than 60 years and reached a capitalisation of €15 billion in September 2018. The holding company has interests in groups such as Pernod Ricard, LafargeHolcim, Total and Adidas. 

Albert Frère was born on 4 February 1926 in Liège, the son of an ironmonger. He first built up his fortune at the head of the Frère-Bourgeois family business. He then went on to trade in steel products on a grand scale. In the 1970s, Frère controlled most of the steel production in Charleroi. During the steel crisis at the beginning of the 1980s, Frère sold his shares in the steel industry and entered the financial industry with the proceeds.

Investments in Luxembourg

At the beginning of the 1980s, Albert Frère founded the Swiss company Pargesa and took control of GBL, which at the time included the third largest private energy group Tractebel. The takeover of GBL secured him important holdings in Luxembourg: in 1982, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg accounted for 15 percent of the Belgian company's total assets, including Banque internationale à Luxembourg (BIL) and Compagnie luxembourgeoise de télédiffusion (CLT). Frère was also indirectly involved in the satellite operators SES, Coditel, Cegedel and Arbed. Together with Gaston Schwertzer, Frère founded BIL Participations in 1988, which later became Luxempart.

Jean-Claude Juncker (r.) praised Albert Frère: "He is an indispensable businessman. He always had his admirers and his critics. I always found it impressive how he was able to transform his defeats into remarkable successes that also benefited Luxembourg." Photo: Tessy Hansen
Jean-Claude Juncker (r.) praised Albert Frère: "He is an indispensable businessman. He always had his admirers and his critics. I always found it impressive how he was able to transform his defeats into remarkable successes that also benefited Luxembourg." Photo: Tessy Hansen

In 1992, BIL sold its shares in BIL Participations to the Foyer Group. Albert Frère sold the CLT shares at a favourable price. In 1997, Frère negotiated the merger with the Bertelsmann subsidiary UFA. However, he came under fire when he sold his 30 percent stake in the newly founded RTL Group to Bertelsmann AG in 2001. In return, he received 25% of the German media group and secured the right to float the package on the stock exchange. Albert Frère collected a total of €4.5 billion when Bertelsmann bought the package back from him in 2006.

In 1998 he was awarded the "Ordre grand-ducal de la couronne de chêne". At the award ceremony, the then Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker praised him: "Albert Frère is an indispensable businessman. He always had his admirers and his critics. I always found it impressive how he was able to transform his defeats into remarkable successes that also benefited Luxembourg."