Georges Besse (25 December 1927, in Clermont-Ferrand, France – 17 November 1986, in Paris) was a French businessman who led several large state-controlled French companies during his lifetime. He was assassinated outside his Paris home by the terrorist group Action directe. At the time of his death he was the CEO of French car manufacturer Renault.
|Died||17 November 1986 (aged 58)|
|Alma mater||École Polytechnique, Mines ParisTech|
Besse became the head of the public-owned Renault automaker in January 1985. He was credited with taking the money-losing company to reporting a profit only two months before he was gunned down. He was criticized because his plan to make the bloated enterprise efficient included closing plants and laying off 21,000 workers. Labor unions opposed his actions in Europe, as well as his support for Renault's investments in the United States. The French company was a major stockholder in American Motors (AMC), which was also experiencing financial problems. Renault invested additional resources in AMC for launching new Jeep vehicles, upgrading to fuel injection new 2.5 L and 4.0 L AMC engines, as well as a new factory in Brampton, Ontario. While some Renault executives and labor leaders perceived AMC as a bottomless pit, Besse championed the future in the North American market just as Jeep four wheel drives were riding an unprecedented surge in demand. Not only did Besse make Renault profitable, but AMC was also on course with growing markets and sales.
Besse was gunned down at about 8:25 in the evening of November 17, 1986 on the sidewalk at the front steps of 16 Boulevard Edgar Quinet, walking to his 18th-century villa at 12 Boulevard Edgar Quinet — in Paris' 14th Arrondissment, the Montparnasse district. The scene was witnessed by one of Besse's daughters, who'd observed the street from an upstairs window while waiting for her father's 8:30 return.
Besse's killers approached just as he alighted from his chauffeur-driven car a short distance from his home. Witnesses said Besse was shot four to six times, in the head and in the chest, dying almost immediately where he fell on the pavement. Reports varied on whether the assailants escaped by car, motorcycle or on foot.
Leaflets by the militant anarchist organization Action Directe were sent three months later. The organization claimed responsibility for the murder, stating the murder was in retaliation for his reforms of the financially stricken automaker Renault which involved laying off a large number of workers. However, the Action Directe members denied any responsibility during their trial.
Two women, Nathalie Menigon and Joelle Aubron, were charged with his murder in March 1987 and were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1989. Two other Action Directe members, Jean-Marc Rouillan and Georges Cipriani, were convicted as accomplices and also sentenced to life imprisonment.
Besse's murder has also been linked, most notably by Dominique Lorentz, to the negotiations concerning the Eurodif nuclear company, in which Iran had a 10% share. Renault's car assembly plant in Douai in northern France, was renamed in Besse's honour.