Aviation pioneer and arms industrialist

Born: April 4, 1925;

Died: May 28, 2018

SERGE Dassault, who has died aged 93, was an aerospace magnate, arms industrialist and one of France’s richest men. He was especially known for the development of France’s Mirage jet fighters, as well as for equipping the French Air Force and other governments and militaries through global sales. He was chairman and CEO of the Dassault Group when he died, and president of honor of Dassault Aviation, which he once led.

Dassault was the son of Marcel Dassault, a survivor of the Nazi death camp at Buchenwald in Germany who founded the aviation company that would form the core of the group’s business.

Like his father, Serge Dassault also became a press baron and a politician. A conservative with views on the right, he entered politics in the 1980s, representing the Essonne region south of Paris in the French Senate from 2004 until last year. He also served as a regional counselor and mayor of the town of Corbeille-Essonnes for 14 years.

“Dassault marked the history of our country,” Senate President Gerard Larcher said in a statement.

Former conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy said that France lost a great industrialist and the aviation world a pioneer. “Me, I simply lose a friend,” Sarkozy said.

The March 2018 edition of Forbes ranked Dassault as having the fourth-largest fortune in France, worth 19 billion euros ($22.6 billion.)

He was fighting a 2017 tax fraud conviction and two million-euro fine over millions of euros he had kept outside of France. His defence lawyers said the financial arrangements were set up by Marcel Dassault during the 1950s. An appeals court hearing in the case was scheduled for next week.

In another affair, Dassault was handed preliminary charges in 2014 for alleged vote buying and complicity in illicitly financing an electoral campaign.

He was born Serge Bloch in Paris on April 4 1925, the second son of Marcel Bloch, who had founded his first aircraft company in 1928. During the Second World War, the family was held in internment. After the war, Marcel Bloch began to rebuild his business and changed the family name to Dassault.

Serge was educated at the Lycée Janson de Sailly, Paris, and the Ecole Nationale Superieure de l’Aeronautique, before joining the family business in the 1950s. It wasn't until his father's death in 1986 though that he was finally able to take over.

Away from work, his main hobby was shooting at his 2,000 acre estate at Rambouillet.

Dassault’s family announced his death in a brief statement to the conservative newspaper Le Figaro, which the Dassault Group owns. It said he died of a “cardiac deficiency” at the group’s office on the Champs-Elysees Avenue.

The office of President Emmanuel Macron praised a man who, he said, had consecrated his life to developing a flagship of French industry.

Survivors include his wife, Nicole, their daughter and three sons. The oldest son, Olivier, is a deputy in the national assembly.