Albert Frère, son of a nail merchant
Albert Frère, one of Europe's richest men (Forbes magazine estimated his fortune to be 5.8 billion dollars) died on 3 December 2018 in Gerpinnes. In his lifetime, the man became a genuine legend in the world of finance. At the head of CNP and GBL, he became the "leading private investor in France", the "Belgian king" of the Paris Stock Exchange, according to a recent article in the newspaper, Le Monde (1-3-2017).
He was born on 4 February 1926 in Fontaine-l'Évêque (Hainaut), near Charleroi. His father died when he was four years old. His mother took over the family business, a prosperous wholesale ironmongery. Albert began working there just after the Second World War. Even at a very young age, he proved to be an excellent business man. Having started his career trading everything, from the 1950s, Albert Frère specialised in the steel industry, buying up companies in the Charleroi basin to the point of becoming the head of Thy-Marcinelle and Carlam. He was even appointed Managing Director of Cockerill-Sambre after the merger of the two Walloon groups (1982). But the economic situation showed strong signs of weakness and he quickly sold his shares in steel to invest his capital in a range of sectors such as banking, insurance (Royale Belge), the media (Bertelsmann, Dupuis), energy (Petrofina, Total, Suez) and popular or luxury food brands (Quick, Taittinger). The purchase of the Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL) in 1982 was his first significant acquisition, the first in a long line of transactions. As the head of the Compagnie Nationale à Portefeuille, CNP (1986), Albert Frère ran a veritable financial empire from Gerpinnes. The basis of Frère's wealth lies in his motto, "buy cheap and sell dear". The clever financier was also an informed wine-lover and together with the French billionaire Bernard Arnault (LVMH) he acquired some of the most well-known Bordeaux vineyards including Châteaux Cheval Blanc, Quinault l’Enclos and La Tour du Pin.
Already honoured with a great number of Belgian and Foreign accolades, King Albert II also bestowed on him the title of Baron. His motto is "Amat Victoria Curam", in English "Victory loves effort".