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Mohed Altrad

Altrad crowned “World Entrepreneur of the Year” in Monaco

By Martin Quick

Mohed Altrad has won the 2015 “EY World Entrepreneur of the Year” award in Monaco following his exceptional leadership of engineering company Altrad.

The businessman, who created Altrad in 1985, became the first Frenchman to win the prestigious award.

The corporation, which supplies equipment for building and public works, has an annual turnover of over 1.6 billion euros and currently employs 17,000 workers, making it Europe’s largest scaffolding company.

The group, which integrated Rotterdam-based rival business Hertel earlier this year, registered  staggering growth from 2014, with turnover figures nearly doubling - from 870 million euros to 1.6 billion euros - and hiring almost 10,000 new staff.

But the man behind it all has arisen from modest upbringings. Mohed Altrad, whose exact date of birth is unknown, originates from a Syrian nomad tribe where, he explains, there was “no civil status”.

But following excellent academic results, Altrad moved to France aged 17, where he acquired a PhD in computer science. Between 1975 and 1980, Mohed Altrad worked as an engineer for Alcatel and then Thomson.

After a short stint in Abu Dhabi, Altrad returned to France in 1984, where he started his first project, France Informatique Electronique et Télématique.

However, it was in 1985 that the entrepreneur’s adventure really began, with the launch of his own industrial company Altrad which now operates over 12 countries and sells to over 100, becoming one of the world’s biggest businesses in its market.

But despite his overwhelming list of achievements, even more so considering his past, Altrad does not get carried away. After accepting his award at the Monaco-held ceremony, the Frenchman stressed that his message was one of hope to those who struggled “just to exist, just to eat”.

“We can help each other,” he said. “Companies are not just there to generate money year after year and then you become a billionaire — this is not the objective. The objective of life is to help humanity”.

He added: “What I was trying to say to other entrepreneurs like myself is that we need to stop becoming robots making money. We should drive part of this money to the people who really need it”.

Mohed Altrad’s tale is filled with inspiration and ambition for those who live as he did, and hopefully one of many stories to come.


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