The world’s fashion capital is home to well-known family business brands such as Louis Vuitton and Hermès, but there’s more to the French capital’s heritage of family firm success. Paris can also lay claim to the oldest family-owned jewellery house. Since 1613, Maison Mellerio has been operating, carefully shepherded by 15 generations of the Mellerio family, making it the last independent house of jewellery in France and a leading example of the capital’s heritage of family firm success.
France is home to many of the world’s largest family businesses, surpassed only by the United States and Germany. It’s estimated that there are between 40,000 and 50,000 family businesses in France, driving the majority of the nation’s economic activity and contributing around 60 per cent of its GDP. The Paris Region alone accounts for 1.1 million of France’s businesses, generating 30.7 per cent of French national wealth and 5.3 per cent of the European Union’s GDP.
Here are the 10 Largest Family Businesses in Paris by revenue:
10. Imerys SA
Owning/Controlling Family: Frère / Desmarais
Annual Revenue: $5.2 Billion
The leading global supplier of speciality minerals for industry, Imerys operates across a wide range of sectors through two segments: Performance Minerals and High-Temperature Materials & Solutions. The group’s Performance Minerals division produces functional additives used in markets such as ceramics, cosmetics, and batteries. Imerys’ High-Temperature Materials are used as processing aids to facilitate the manufacture of abrasives, building materials, and refractory products.
The group’s history dates back to 1880 and the Spanish metals and mining company, Peñarroya. In 1970, a holding company was created by the merger of Peñarroya and two other metals firms. As the group focused exclusively on industrial minerals processing, it adopted the name Imerys in 1999 to reflect the new direction of its activities. Canada’s Desmarais family owns a majority stake in Imerys SA through its Groupe Bruxelles Lambert holding company.
9. Sopra Steria Group SA
Owning/Controlling Family: Pasquier / Odin
Annual Revenue: $5.6 Billion
Consulting, digital services, and software development Group, Sopra Steria supports nine sectors: Aerospace, Energy & Utilities, Financial Services, Retail, and Telecommunications. The two companies, founded separately in the late 1960s, offered solutions in the emerging IT services industry. The companies officially merged in 2014, creating a Group of complementary businesses. Today, Sopra Steria ranks among the top 5 European digital transformation firms, operating in nearly 30 countries with 50,000 employees. Pierre Pasquier serves as Chairman of the Group he co-founded with François Odin.
8. Sucres et Denrees (Sucden)
Owning/Controlling Family: Varsano
Annual Revenue: $7.1 Billion
A global leader in soft commodities trading, Sucres et Denrees ships more than 10 million tonnes of products, including sugar, cocoa, coffee, and ethanol through its more than 25 worldwide locations to over 100 destinations across four continents. Sucden also offers processing, logistics, distribution, merchandising, financing, research, and risk management services.
Maurice Varsano and Jacques Roboh launched the business in 1952. Today, Maurice Varsano’s son, Serge Varsano, leads Sucden as its Chairman of the Management Board. Since 2000, he has overseen Sucden’s expansion activities globally, acquiring New York-based Coffee Americas in 2014, Amsterdam-based, Nedcoffee in 2015, and Columbian business, Engelhart Commodities Trading Partners in 2019.
7. Burelle SA
Owning/Controlling Family: Burelle
Annual Revenue: $8.6 Billion
With a future-forward focus on plastics for the automobile industry, chemical engineer Pierre Burelle founded Plastic Omnium in 1946. The company would grow to become a global leader in automotive equipment and systems. Today, the family’s holding company, Burelle SA, controls Plastic Omnium, and two other subsidiaries: private equity firm, Burelle Participations, and real estate company, Sofiparc. The Burelle family owns 85.3 per cent of Burelle SA and 91.52 per cent of the voting rights. Brothers Laurent and Jean Burelle control the family business their late father started.
6. Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault SA
Owning/Controlling Family: Dassault
Annual Revenue: $8.6 Billion
Prominent Aircraft manufacturer with group activities that include Software, Publishing & Media, Commercial Real Estate, Wineries, and Auction House Services. The Dassault Group was founded by Marcel Dassault, born Marcel Bloch, whose aeronautic innovations were embraced by France’s air force in the early 20th century. The company would go on to produce the nation’s first jets, including the Dassault Ouragan, the Mirage and the Mystère-Falcon. Today, the group’s Falcon 2000 series business jet offers industry-leading performance and boasts more than 550 in service. Brothers Thierry and Laurent Dassault serve on the Supervisory Board of the Group their grandfather founded.
5. Wendel-Participations SE
Owning/Controlling Family: Wendel
Annual Revenue: $8.9 Billion
One of Europe’s leading listed investment firms, Wendel has invested in successful companies that include Capgemini, bioMérieux, Reynolds, Stallergenes, Wheelabrator, Valeo, Afflelou, Editis, Legrand, Deutsch Group and Allied Universal.
Founded in 1704 when Jean-Martin de Wendel acquired industrial forges in France’s Lorraine region, the group shifted its focus to private equity after the country nationalised steel production activities at the end of the 1970s. Wendel’s 1,200 family shareholders maintain a controlling stake in the group and are represented by six members of the company’s Supervisory Board.
4. Hermès International
Owning/Controlling Family: Hermes / Dumas
Annual Revenue: $12.7 Billion
Founded by harness-maker Thierry Hermès in 1837, the family-owned design house spans six generations and is well known for, among other products, its famous Birkin bag.
Jean-Louis Dumas transformed the business in 1978, introducing jewellery, watches, and fine housewares to the House’s well-established apparel segment. Today, Hermès International’s products include leather goods, clothing, footwear, furniture, textiles, tableware, perfumes, and watches. Led by its Executive Chairman, Axel Dumas — nephew to Jean-Louis Dumas who served as the group’s CEO from 1978 to 2006, Hermes operates 300 stores in 45 countries.
3. Kering SA
Owning/Controlling Family: Pinault
Annual Revenue: $20.9 Billion
The global luxury group behind popular fashion, leather, and jewellery brands: Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Brioni, Boucheron, Pomellato, DoDo, Qeelin, and Kering Eyewear is based in Paris.
François Pinault leveraged the success of the timber trading firm he founded in 1963 to enter the specialised retail distribution sector in 1990. His group would shift to luxury products later that decade with its 1999 purchase of a 42 per cent stake in the Gucci Group. In 2005, Pinault’s son, François-Henri Pinault, transformed the group’s activities with a sole focus on acquiring iconic luxury Houses. The group adopted the Kering name (pronounced “caring”) in 2013 to reflect its forward-looking vision. In addition to its brand activities, the group directly operates 528 stores globally.
2. Societe De Negoce Et De Participation (Sonepar)
Owning/Controlling Family: Coisne / Lambert
Annual Revenue: $36 Billion
Founded in 1969 by Henri Coisne and his brothers, Sonepar is a leading global B2B distributor of electrical products, solutions, and related services. The group operates a network of 100 brands across 40 countries, with 44,000 employees providing products and services to professionals that include cable management, enclosures and panel assembly, electrical distribution, power distribution, heating and ventilation, lighting, and Automation controls. The group also offers professional products and solutions under its TRADEFORCE and LIT by Cardi exclusive brands.
Sonepar’s family shareholders oversee the group’s activities through the family holding company, Colam Entreprendre. Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette, daughter of the founder, serves as Colam Entreprendre’s Permanent representative on Sonepar’s board and is also the Board Chairman.
In April 2023, Sonepar announced its digital transformation initiative, which will draw on partners Microsoft, Publicis Sapient, and Hitachi to deliver an innovative customer and associate experience with best-in-class sustainability.
1. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA
Owning/Controlling Family: Arnault
Annual Revenue: $87 Billion
Home to 75 Houses across six sectors, LVMH represents some of the world’s most iconic luxury products, including well-known brands such as Sephora, TAG Heuer, Tiffany & Co., Givenchy, Christian Dior, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Hennessy, and Dom Pérignon.
In 1987, Louis Vuitton and Möet-Hennessy agreed to a $4 billion merger of their segments, some of which dated back to 1743 and were made popular as the preferred labels of kings, emperors, and czars. After several disputes and legal battles, property developer Bernard Arnault emerged with a controlling stake in the newly formed conglomerate. The company would go on to expand its portfolio and aggressively promote its Houses internationally, eventually becoming the world’s leading luxury goods group.
Bernard Arnault continues to lead the group as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, while his daughter, Delphine Arnault, heads Christian Dior Couture as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.