“Ebrilliant spirit”, “iconoclastic” but “blood”: Denis Kessler, emblematic president of the reinsurer Scor since 2002 and figure of French employers, died Friday at the age of 71, the group announced in a press release.
Scor did not specify the cause of his death, but a source interviewed by AFP praised his “courage in the face of illness”. A few weeks ago, the president of Scor appeared emaciated during the group’s General Assembly.
Genius for some, tyrant for others, this former professor of social sciences had become in 1990 president of the French Federation of insurance companies.
With 11 years of presidency to his credit, “he made a lasting impression” on the teams, “in particular by initiating the modernization of the federal structure and by building quality social dialogue”, France Assureurs reacted to AFP on Friday, boasting the “charisma” and the “vision” of a man with “multiple passions”.
Mulhousien passed by HEC, Denis Kessler, number 2 of the Medef from 1998 to 2002, “was one of the inspirations” of the movement, “a brilliant, iconoclastic, often provocative, and so endearing spirit”, paid tribute to him on Friday in a tweet its current president Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux.
The number 2 of the organization and candidate for the succession of Mr. Roux de Bézieux, Patrick Martin, paid tribute to “a man of rare intelligence and culture”.
In a press release published on Saturday, President Emmanuel Macron hailed “the memory of a man who had made the thought of risk the driving force of his action”.
Depicted by the press as ultra-liberal, Mr. Kessler – who preferred to define himself as “ultra-free” – notably fought against the 35 hours.
Calling himself “deeply European”, he was close to the CFDT and in particular to Nicole Notat, whom he rubbed shoulders with when he was number 2 of the Medef.
The former president of Medef Laurence Parisot hailed on Twitter “a genius, thunderous, brilliant, sometimes unbearable, creative like no one, and who has brought so many ideas to businesses and the economy of our country”.
The reinsurer Scor was on the verge of bankruptcy, after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the bursting of the internet bubble, when he was urgently offered to become its CEO on a Sunday in 2002.
Under his leadership, the company recovered and rose from 12th to 4th place in the world in terms of turnover.
“We have straightened out this group, with an exceptional team, which I am extremely proud of,” he told AFP before handing over the general management in June 2021, while keeping his presidency.
His management and his salary were then contested by minority shareholders, in a turbulent context for Scor, which had just made peace with the insurance group Covéa, after several years of a legal and media showdown after the attempt redemption of the first by the second.
“He is someone who does not let go of his bone” and with an “absolutely volcanic temperament”, said several collaborators, describing him as “blood”.
“I have never made warm water in my life”, defended Mr. Kessler, for whom “success in business is the ability to decide”. “I am loyal in friendship, as in enmity,” he assumed.
“During the last two decades, Denis Kessler has been the architect of Scor’s success and reputation around the world,” reacted the group’s current managing director, Thierry Léger. “He leaves us an extraordinary legacy.”
“He will have left his mark on the world of insurance and reinsurance and greatly contributed to the dissemination of economic science in our country as well as to the modernization of relations between business and society”, declared to the AFP Bernard Spitz, former president of the French Insurance Federation.
Denis Kessler was a member of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council from 1993 to 2010. He was also, among others, a director of Dexia, Bolloré, BNP Paribas and Dassault Aviation.
10/06/2023 09:03:13 – Paris (AFP) – © 2023 AFP
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