By Nancy Knapp Schilke
Edouard Michelin, Chief Executive Officer of Michelin, died today, Friday May 26, 2006, in a boating accident near Ile de Sein in Brittany, France, according to the company.
Michelin had left for a fishing expedition early that day from the village of d'Audierne with Guillaume Normant, in foggy conditions. The area is known not only for its difficult navigation, but also for the excellent fishing.
The pair were scheduled to return by 2:00pm, and when they had not returned an hour later, an alarm was raised. Michelin's body was located an hour later by an extensive search effort -- including two boats and a navy helicopter -- but the search for Normant, and the 8.5m boat the two were on, was still ongoing into the evening.
"The sea was calm, but there was a thick fog that didn't lift until the middle of the day," said Jean-Marie Figue, the spokesman for the maritime prefecture at Brest. "It is a high-risk zone, where only professionals can fish. There are rocks and currents -- it's a real boiling pot,"
Edouard Michelin, 43, shared the management duties of Michelin -- an entity listed as societe en commandite par actions, or a partnership by shares -- with Michel Rollier, who has, as per Michelin, assumed the leadership role, effective immediately, of the French-based company, founded by Edouard's family 140 years ago. Rollier and Michelin became joint Managing Partners on May 12, 2006.
Born in 1963, Edouard graduated with an engineering degree from the Ecole Centrale de Paris in 1985 prior to his stint in the French Navy for two years. In 1999, his father Francois retired, handing the CEO position to his son.
At that time, Edouard made changes to the company and one was to increase the attention given to North America in order to improve their profits based on his knowledge he gained while holding the position of North America CEO for Michelin.
Many know Michelin for their tires, but they also know the company through "Mr. Bib", the Michelin man, who has become a popular character worldwide. "He (Edouard) was the driving force behind Michelin's success in racing; especially here in North America," according to a top motorsports journalist.
However, that decision and the cutting of jobs in his home country led to Lionel Jospin, the French Prime Minister's displeasure with Edouard and the Michelin company.
The French-based company is active in motor sports, including Formula One and the top-rung of motorcycle racing: MotoGP. Many top teams use Michelin tires from World Rally Competition to the Le Mans endurance series (American Le Mans Series, Le Mans Series and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans).