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Tech entrepreneur to head French business lobby group

Tech entrepreneur to head French business lobby group

France’s largest employer federation, Medef, has elected telecoms and tech entrepreneur Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux as its new president — giving the technology sector an even higher profile as President Emmanuel Macron bets on it to spur the country’s economy.

Mr Roux de Bézieux will take over as president of France’s main pro-business organisation from Pierre Gattaz, who is stepping down after five years.

Medef said on Tuesday that Mr Roux de Bézieux was elected with 55.8 per cent of the vote over Alexandre Saubot, director-general of the Haulotte manufacturing group and chairman of the union of metallurgy industries.

Their contest had been presented as a battle between the old world of French industry and the tech sector that Mr Macron is cultivating as part of his ambitious reform agenda to cut unemployment.

Mr Roux de Bézieux told the Financial Times: “Medef must be transformed to be more representative of the diversity of our economic fabric throughout the country . . . Entrepreneurial initiatives need to be valued more.”

As well as lobbying, Medef plays an important role in running parts of France’s social security. Having backed Mr Macron and his pro-business reforms, notably to liberalise the country’s dysfunctional jobs market, the federation now faces a challenge to stay relevant at a time when Mr Macron wants to overhaul the social security system.

The change in presidency at Medef comes as employers globally are grappling with widespread changes to the jobs market as a result of technology.

“We are entering a new world and a new economy where artificial intelligence and automation are transforming the workforce,” said Bernard Spitz, president of the French Federation of Insurers. “It is important for Medef to play an active role helping to explain what this transformation means for businesses.”

During his election campaign Mr Roux de Bézieux — a serial entrepreneur and former president of CrossiancePlus, an enterprise association — presented himself as the candidate representing digital transformation and new technologies.

Mr Roux de Bézieux worked as a marketing director at French consumer group L’Oréal in the UK and Poland. He then set up The Phone House, a mobile phone retailer that he sold to the UK’s Carphone Warehouse, and founded Omea Telecom, a virtual mobile network operator that was sold to telecoms group SFR.