Mohed Altrad of Altrad Group from France named EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2015
MONACO, 7 June 2015 – Mohed Altrad, the founder and CEO of the Altrade Group, was named EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year at an awards ceremony held in Monaco’s Salle des Étoiles on 6 June 2015. Altrad, a French businessman of Syrian origin whose company manufactures construction equipment and tools and is based not far away in Montpellier, fought off the challenge of 65 finalists from 53 different countries. The Czech Republic was represented at the world final by Vlastislav Bříza, owner of KOH-I-NOOR holding and winner of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014 Czech Republic, who attended the ceremony along with his family.
Mohed Altrad, who was born into a Bedouin tribe in Syria, moved to France aged 17 and went on to gain a PhD in Computer Sciences. He and a partner bought a nearly bankrupt scaffolding maker in 1985 to form the basis of what is now Altrad Group. Mohed developed the company through acquisitions and organic growth and in 2014 generated nearly US$1b in sales and employed nearly 7,000 people in 110 subsidiaries throughout the world. The company, which is the world leader in cement mixers and a European leader in scaffolding and wheelbarrows, will reach US$1.13b in revenues by 2016. Mohed is also President of Montpellier Hérault Rugby Club.
Rebecca MacDonald, founder and Executive Chair of Just Energy Group, Chair of the World Entrepreneur Of The Year judging panel says:
“This year it was a tough but ultimately unanimous decision. Mohed has built a hugely successful, fast-growing international business having overcome a humble and very challenging upbringing. He was forbidden from going to school as a child, moved to France to set up a new life and is now one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs. The judges were impressed by his ability to build and sustain growth over 30 years and by his humility and character.”
Mohed Altrad, says: “I’m so honoured to receive this prestigious award, especially as there was strong competition from such outstanding entrepreneurs around the world. I want to dedicate this award to everyone, as the objective of life is to help humanity. My story should tell anyone that you can change your destiny.”
“As the chairwoman of the judging panel said, all the national winners deserved the world title. It was incredibly difficult to choose a winner. The story of a man, who was born in a slum and managed to create a prosperous company, is astonishing,” said Vlastislav Bříza, the Czech national winner, describing his impressions of the world final.
“This year the Czech Republic had a worthy representative at the final of EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year in Vlastislav Bříza. The judging panel were impressed by his business story, the loyalty of a traditional brand combined with innovative approaches, and above all the perseverance Vlastislav displayed by rebuilding and returning the sheen to the KOOH-I-NOOR brand, which is renowned not only in our country but around the world,” said Magdalena Soucek, Country Managing Partner, EY in the Czech Republic. “We would like to congratulate the winner Mohed Altrad, who also impressed the judging panel with his perseverance and resilience. His personal story is proof that if you really set out to achieve something, the sky’s the limit. From a Bedouin in the Syrian desert, who had a difficult childhood without parents, he worked his way up to be one of the richest businessmen in the world and is now a highly respected figure who meets with the French president and ministers, who are interested in his opinions regarding business and war-torn Syria.”
Mark Weinberger, Global Chairman & CEO of EY, concludes: “Entrepreneurs are a crucial engine of economic recovery and job growth. Mohed is a truly inspiring World Entrepreneur Of The Year winner. He demonstrates the tenacity and sense of purpose that so many of our 64 other country winners possess and which helps them build a better working world.”
About Mohed Altrad and Altrad Group
Mohed Altrad was born in the Syrian desert into a Bedouin tribe. His mother died shortly after his birth, and he was raised by his grandmother who forbade him from going to school. Mohed went nonetheless. He spied on what was going on in the classroom through a hole in the wall, until a teacher allowed him to sit in on lessons. Later, as he became the best in his class, he went to study in Raqqa, Syria. From there, he earned a scholarship in France and went on to obtain a PhD in Computer Science. He worked for large companies for about 15 years, but at heart he had always been an entrepreneur.
After starting and selling a business that manufactured portable computers, Mohed came across a nearly bankrupt scaffolding business while on holiday in the south of France. In 1985, without any knowledge of the industry, he and a partner purchased the company, which became the basis of Altrad Group. Mohed continued to grow the business by acquiring distressed companies and consolidating across Europe.
Today, Altrad Group is a world-leading maker of cement mixers and Europe’s leading maker of scaffolding and wheelbarrows. In 2014, Altrad Group generated US$960m in sales and employed nearly 7,000 people throughout the world.
Mohed places the individual at the center of his company and offers young people apprenticeships or qualification scholarships. In addition, Mohed supports Doctors Without Borders, and the French League Against Cancer. He received the Knight of the French Legion of Honor, and was promoted to Officer in 2014.
Mohed is also an acclaimed author. His partly autobiographical novel, Badawi, is now taught in French schools as part of the literature curriculum.
Profile of the Czech Republic winner
Vlastislav Bříza – KOH-I-NOOR holding a. s., EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2014 of the Czech Republic
Vlastislav Bříza joined KOOH-I-NOOR as a designer, but soon afterwards left his job because of differences of opinion. He worked his way up to be director of Gama, and upon receiving an offer to return to the loss-making pencil manufacturer, he didn’t hesitate for a moment. In 1999 the sale of KOOH-I-NOOR was on the cards. Vlastislav, whose motto is “moving forward means taking risks”, took out a bank loan and bought the firm from PPF himself. Over the next seven years he turned around sales results and returned the lustre to a traditional brand. These days the company, which acquired its name 225 years ago, runs 80 shops. Vlastislav turned KOOH-I-NOOR into a concern whose stability strategically rests on four main business pillars: the consumer industry, engineering, the healthcare sector and the power industry. The holding encompasses not only KOOH-I-NOOR Hardtmuth, the world famous manufacturer of art, schools and office supplies, but also companies and factories in Russia and Bulgaria and firms in Italy and Poland. It also includes the Gama Group, KOOH-I-NOOR Energy, KOOH-I-NOOR Machinery, Polyclinic Sever in České Budějovice and the Vltava Hotel. The KOH-I-NOOR HOLDING, with more than 2,200 employees and turnover in excess of CZK 3.5 billion, has become an important driver of economic growth in many regions. As far as business is concerned, Vlastislav believes that money is like blood: if you don’t have it, you’re lost. Aside from his work he loves cars and is a keen cyclist and skier.
About the EY World Entrepreneur Of the Year judging panel
The independent judging panel comprised a distinguished group of entrepreneurs. The judging panel was chaired by Rebecca MacDonald of Just Energy Group (Canada). Joining her were:
uFadi Ghandour of Aramex and Wamda Capital (UAE)
uNobuyuki Idei of Quantum Leaps Corporation, and former Chairman and Group CEO, Sony Corporation (Japan)
uTan Sri Liew Kee Sin of EcoWorld Development Group Berhad (Malaysia)
uMichael Wu of Maxim’s Caterers Limited (China)
uDr. Ruth Oltjer of Chemi-Pharm AS (Estonia)
uEwald Raben of Raben Group (Poland)
Broadcast coverage, an interview with the winner and high-resolution photography will be available to download for broadcast and online use at: https://broadcast.ey.com/stories/9205
Event photography is available at www.ey.com/weoy/eventphotos