Dassault dynasty turns ex-intern into billionaire after 40 years
Forty years after joining Dassault Systemes as an intern, Bernard Charlès is in position to run the entire holding company — and a billionaire to boot.
In 1983, France’s Dassault family brought in an intern named Bernard Charlès and tasked him with developing new design technologies during his military service.
He’s now chairman of the dynasty’s biggest business, Dassault Systemes SE; a front-runner to take the top spot at the holding company within a couple of years — and a billionaire to top it off.
Charlès is the second nonfamily billionaire to emerge from Dassault Systemes, a software developer for 3D designs. Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault, the family’s holding company, has a controlling 40% stake in the tech company that grew into a behemoth with a market value of €48 billion ($52 billion).
As part of his compensation, Charlès is being given performance shares, which are aimed at “providing him with an equity stake comparable to that of founders of companies in the same sector and, more generally, of his peers in technology companies around the world,” according to the latest annual report released this month.
He is being awarded 1.5 million shares annually, the document showed. He owned 24.5 million at the end of last year, giving him holdings worth about $1 billion when using the stock price at Wednesday’s close and adding remuneration and payouts. His compensation for 2022 was about €33 million, including the value of the granted shares — an amount that has made him one of the country’s highest-paid executives.
A spokesman for Dassault Systemes declined to comment.
The low-profile Charlès began working at the company soon after its creation as a tiny spinoff from the Dassault clan’s historic aeronautics business. He climbed the ranks and has been CEO since 1995, a position he retained in addition to becoming chairman.
Charles Edelstenne, 85, is the other nonfamily billionaire from Dassault Systemes. The honorary chairman and co-founder has a nearly 6% stake and heads the clan’s holding company. His fortune is valued at around $3 billion.
The Dassaults have a net worth of about $26 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The Dassault family’s business stretches back more than a century, when founder and aeronautical engineer Marcel Bloch designed a new type of propeller that was used in World War I.
When Germany took over part of France during WW II, he refused to collaborate and was incarcerated with his family before being sent to concentration camps. After the conflict ended, he changed his name to Dassault — a play on the word “assault” and an allusion to an alias used by his brother, Gen. Paul Bloch, who fought in the French resistance.
Dassault’s son, Serge, took over when his father died. Serge’s surviving children — Laurent, Thierry and Marie-Helene, along with their late brother’s daughter — make up the holding company’s supervisory board. The empire they oversee spans aviation, media, real estate, software, vineyards and an art auction house.
In February, the family expanded into finance with a decision to invest in Rothschild & Co. to help take the eponymous bank private. Among other French dynasties backing the deal are the owners of luxury giant Chanel, the Wertheimers and the Peugeot carmaking clan.