UPDATED: François Michelin dies

April 29, 2015

François Michelin, who led Group Michelin for 47 years, has died. He was 88.

Group Michelin described him as a visionary and a humanitarian in a statement.

“Mr. François Michelin tirelessly embodied the values of respect that are the very foundation of our Group’s identity.

"Under his leadership, Michelin experienced unprecedented growth, driven by his passion for innovation as well as his uncompromising attention to quality. He transformed the Group by giving it an international dimension.”

Jean-Dominique Senard, chief executive officer of the Michelin Group, said, "On behalf of the Group's employees, I would like to pay special tribute to this exceptional man who was universally respected for his values, his convictions, and his vision."

French President François Hollande hailed Michelin as "one of the greatest French industrialists of the postwar years.

"By developing the radial tire, he transformed a family and regional company into one of the biggest French groups and one of its best known."

During Michelin's tenure as a managing partner, from 1955 to 2002, the company his grandfather created grew globally. The company's timeline of product advancements includes its introduction of radial tires for earthmovers, farm machinery, aircraft and motorcycles. Low rolling resistance tires also were launched under his watch. At the same time, production expanded across the world. Today, the tire manufacturer says it operates 68 production plants in 17 countries.

In 2008 a Clermont-Ferrand based newspaper produced a special magazine entitled "Michelin: It's History, It's Champions, It's Everyday Heroes." The magazine includes a profile of Michelin and a glimpse into his personality. "He boasted, sometimes whimsically, about his ability to listen. 'Look at my ears! They stick out. This is my greatest asset!'"

One word that described him - simple. The same 2008 magazine wrote, "Simplicity was the word. Working in a simple office, nearly as spare as a monk's cell, driving a simple car...sporting Colombo-like trench coats, he looked like Mr. Everybody despite his lanky silhouette. He even extended this principle to his speech pattern. 'If I use simple words when I speak, it's just that I want to be sure I understand what I say.' "

The French tire manufacturer compiled this biography:

"François Michelin was born on June 15, 1926. He was the son of Etienne Michelin and the grandson of Edouard Michelin, who co-founded Michelin et Cie with his brother Andre in 1889.

"Fond of science, he studied mathematics before joining the Carmes factory in 1951, where he followed onboarding as an engineer. For two years he was a shift employee, first as a worker in the truck workshop on the Carmes site then as an operator for passenger car tires in Cataroux. He then trained with the salesforce, visiting dealers throughout France, and spent several months training in Italty at the Turin factory. Upon returing to France, he became shop manager for the truck workshop at the Carmes site, then spent a year in research.

"On May 28, 1955, with this solid experience, François Michelin became co-managing partner of the Manufacture Française des Pneumatiques Michelin (MFPM) and the Compagnie Generale des Etablissements Michelin (CGEM) alongside his uncle Robert Pruiseux.

"In October 1959 he became sole managing partner, then called François Rollier to work alongside him in 1966, followed by Rene Zingraff in 1986. In 1991, shortly before François Rollier retired, the co-managing partners asked Edouard Michelin, one of François Michelin's sons, to join them at the head of the company. Edouard Michelin had been working for the company for several years, holding several positions, notably in France and in North America. (Edouard Michelin died in a boating accident in 2006.)"

Among the key additional dates the company highlighted from Michelin's tenure:

1965: Creation of the technology center in Ladoux, and signing of a sales agreement with Sears Roebuck and Co.

1975: The manufacturer's first factory in the U.S. opened in Greenville, S.C.

1990: Acquisition of Uniroyal-Goodrich

1996: Global reorganization of the company

Group Michelin said the date of the funeral will be announced soon.

Latest in Consumer Tires