Serge Dassault, the billionaire businessman and politician who inherited an aviation empire from his World War I aircraft-designer father, has died. He was 93.

He succumbed Monday to heart failure in his company office just off the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, said a spokeswoman for Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault. He was chairman.

One of two sons born to aviation legend Marcel Dassault and his wife, Madeleine Minckes, Serge Dassault forged a name as a fierce guardian of the family’s businesses and an outspoken conservative politician.

Though Dassault expanded the family’s business interests into real estate, auction houses and media, he had to contend with critical comparisons to his powerful father. Marcel Dassault founded the family’s main company, Paris-based aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation, maker of the Rafale military plane and the Falcon corporate jet.

“France has lost a man who dedicated his life to developing a jewel of French industry,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement.

The Dassaults successfully rebuffed attempts by French President Francois Mitterrand to nationalize the company in the 1980s. Similarly, Serge Dassault had to battle restructuring attempts by then-President Jacques Chirac in the mid-1990s.

Dassault was born Serge Bloch in Paris on April 4, 1925. His father invented a type of propeller used by the French army during World War I. After starting his own eponymous aircraft manufacturer in 1936, Marcel Dassault was well-positioned to supply aircraft to the military after the outbreak of World War II.

During the war, the Bloch family, which was of Jewish heritage, was arrested by the Gestapo and stripped of its property. In 1944, Marcel Dassault was deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp and held as a political hostage. He was released in April 1945 when the camp was liberated.

After his release, he changed the family name to Dassault. Derived from the word for “assault” in French, it was also the alias used by Marcel Dassault’s brother, Gen. Paul Bloch, who fought in the French Resistance. In 1950, Marcel Dassault converted to Catholicism.

Serge Dassault joined the family business in 1951 after graduating from France’s prestigious engineering school, Ecole Polytechnique and the Institut Superieur de l’Aeronautique et de l’Espace.

Even though Serge Dassault distinguished himself as a student, his father had no interest in sharing power. He distanced his son by making him head of Dassault Electronique, a branch of the family business. Only after Marcel Dassault’s death in 1986, at the age of 94, did Serge Dassault take over as chief executive of Dassault Groupe.

“It’s first and foremost a great industrialist who is gone,” said Manuel Valls, former prime minister, in a statement. “He profoundly modernized the Dassault company.”

In March 2004, Dassault bought Le Groupe Figaro, publisher of one of France’s most widely-read newspapers. The company also owns the Paris-based auction house Artcurial and wine estates in Bordeaux. Serge Dassault’s fortune is worth $27.3 billion, making him the world’s 28th-wealthiest man, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“We won’t see any more big bosses like him: determined, very endearing, a little cunning, patriotic,” Laurence Parisot, former head of business lobby Medef, said in a tweet.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.