Francis Mer, former leader of Saint-Gobain and Arcelor, passes away at 84

Francis Mer, the former leader of Saint-Gobain and Arcelor, and a prominent figure in French industry and politics, has passed away at the age of 84.

Francis Mer, who served as the Minister of Economy during Jacques Chirac’s presidency and played a crucial role in transforming Usinor into Arcelor, breathed his last on November 1. The news was announced by Jean-Pierre Raffarin via Twitter, who paid tribute to Mer’s “uncompromising ethics, unwavering loyalty, and dedication to serving.”

Current Minister of the Economy, Bruno le Maire, also expressed his condolences on social media, remembering Mer as an “industrialist who left a lasting impact on his country, both at Saint-Gobain and in the Ministry of Economy, Finance, and Industry.”

A graduate of Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole des Mines de Paris, Francis Mer embarked on his career at the Ministry of Industry in 1965, later joining Saint-Gobain in 1970. Over the years, he climbed the corporate ladder, eventually becoming the CEO of Pont-à-Mousson in 1982. In 1986, the French government entrusted him with the leadership of the steel group Usinor-Sacilor, which would be privatized in 1995. Despite years of losses, Mer orchestrated a significant turnaround, marked by a painful restructuring that involved substantial workforce reductions.

Mer played a pivotal role in the merger of Usinor with Luxembourg’s Arbed and Spain’s Aceralia, culminating in the birth of Arcelor in 2001. Following his departure from the company, Arcelor became the focus of an intense stock market battle, ultimately won by the Indian conglomerate Mittal. The merger resulted in the formation of ArcelorMittal in 2006.

France mourns the loss of a visionary industrialist and dedicated public servant. Francis Mer’s legacy is etched in the history of French industry, where his contributions have left an indelible mark.