The business world has been paying tribute to Philippe Bodson, a business leader in Belgium in the 1980s and 1990s, who has died of the coronavirus (Covid-19) at the age of 75.
Bodson grew up the son of a distiller and entrepreneur in Liege, and studied metallurgy before taking an MBA at the prestigious INSEAD school in Fontainebleau outside Paris.
He then went on to work for consultants McKinsey in Paris and a bank in St-Louis in the US, before arriving at glass manufacturer Glaverbel, where he would rise first to the board and then to the office of managing director.
From that launch-pad he extended his influence by becoming involved in sectoral and management federations, being elected manager of the year in 1987.
Two years later he would move to what would become the pinnacle of his career: Tractebel. The holding company was one of the major conglomerates of the late Eighties and Nineties, encompassing brands that were household names in that period: Electrabel, Coditel, Distrigaz, Fabricom. Tractebel was owned by two giants of the Belgian economy, Société Générale de Belgique and the group owned by Albert Frère.
Bodson is credited with taking Tractebel from a rag-tag collection of mismatching businesses and turning it into a coherent economic player both at home and abroad. The business magazine Trends reports insiders describing his arrival at the head of Tractebel as equivalent to the arrival of the handsome prince in the take of Sleeping Beauty.
Later, he would become the president of the Federation of Belgian Business (FEB), the boss of bosses.
Current president Bart De Smet and managing director Pieter Timmermans issued a statement on learning of Bodson’s death, describing him as “a charismatic man of strong convictions”.
“I very much appreciated his support these past few years, in particular during the creation of the new strategy of the FEB presented this year,” said Timmermans. “His phone calls with precious advice, growing out of his broad vision of society and economic development, will be sorely missed.”
In 1999 Bodson moved into politics, becoming a senator for the PRL, now renamed MR.
“The coronavirus epidemic has already carried off more than 1,200 people in our country, and I have thought of all of their near ones having to mourn in especially difficult circumstances,” said MR president Georges-Louis Bouchez. “Today, a giant of the world of the Belgian economy has been taken by the virus, and I present my sincere condolences to those close to him.”
The energy group Engie, formerly Electrabel, issued a statement.
“A charismatic leader boiling over with ideas, he prepared the group and its teams for the liberalisation of the energy market. Philippe Bodson was without a doubt one of the visionaries in the field of energy in Belgium.”