Xavier Niel (born 25 August 1967) is a French billionaire businessman, active in the telecommunications and technology industry and best known as founder and majority shareholder of the French Internet service provider and Mobile operator Iliad trading under the Free brand (France's second-largest ISP, and third mobile operator).[3] He is also co-owner of the newspaper Le Monde,[4] and co-owner of the rights of the song "My Way"[5] and owner of Monaco Telecom.[6] He is deputy chairman and chief strategy officer for Iliad.[7]

Xavier Niel
Xavier Niel004.jpg
Xavier Niel in 2014
Born (1967-08-25) 25 August 1967 (age 52)
Known forFounder and majority shareholder of Iliad
Net worthUS$6.1 billion (June 2018)[1]
TitleChief strategy officer, Iliad
Partner(s)Delphine Arnault

As of April 2018, his net worth is estimated at US$6.1 billion.[1]


Niel started early by developing telecommunication and data services and embarked at a young age on an entrepreneurial career soon after his father gave him a Sinclair ZX81 computer as a birthday present.[8]

At 19, he successfully created then sold his first company, a Minitel (a French forerunner of the internet) service company. This minitel-site provided sex oriented chat services.

In 1995, he invested in the first Internet Service Provider in France, World-NET, created the previous year by Sébastien Socchard, Philippe Langlois and Pierre Séguret. This company was sold the year before the internet bubble burst.[9]

After taking over a company subsequently renamed Iliad SA, Xavier Niel launched in 1996 the 1st reversed directory service on the Minitel. This service was responsible for 1 million euros of revenue per year for Iliad until the end of the minitel in France in 2012.[10] Niel remains Iliad's majority shareholder, holding 63.93%[11] of the share capital.

In 1999, he created Free, a French Internet service provider. The name came from the fact that modem access was really free, which caused some stir among other (non-free) French Internet providers, as well as it raised some questions about Free's business model. In 2002, Free launched a broadband package at a low price (€29.99 per month), which became the benchmark in the market. At the same time, Free developed and launched the Freebox: the first triple-play multi-service box in France. The free modem service had brought to the company a strong potential customers portfolio, many of them switching to the broadband for the sake of comfort.

In 1999, he founded Online, a French hosting company.

In March 2010, Xavier Niel cofounded with Jeremie Berrebi Kima Ventures,[12] a fund dedicated to invest in 50 to 100 startups a year everywhere in the world. Kima Ventures already invested in 330 companies from February 2010 to August 2014 in 32 countries. Business Insider described Xavier Niel and Jeremie Berrebi as almost certainly the most active angel investors in the world.[13]

In late 2010 Niel was a member of a group of investors which acquired a controlling stake in the newspaper Le Monde.[14]

In 2012, he created Free Mobile, which revolutionizes mobile telephony in France, with a 25 US$ plan, including unlimited voice calls, text and data (3G/4G).

In 2013, Niel created a school named 42, which is a free tech school with no teachers, no books, no tuition for 1000 people every year.[15]

In 2014, Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) sold its 55% economic interest in Monaco Telecom to NJJ Capital, an investment vehicle controlled by Xavier Niel for US$445 million.

Judiciary problemsEdit

On 28 May 2004, Xavier Niel was indicted and detained for a month for alleged procuring and misuse of company assets, which occurred in several sex shops in which he was a shareholder. On 30 August 2005, a Nolle prosequi was pronounced for the procuring part of his indictment, while on 13 October 2006, he was given a 2 years suspended prison sentence for the misuse of company assets.[16]

Personal lifeEdit

Niel has three children, and lives in Paris.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Forbes profile: Xavier Niel". Forbes. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  2. ^ Lasry-Segura, Edith (13 March 2017). "Au Lys-Chantilly, ce " ghetto des riches " où François Fillon s'impose". Le Parisien. Le domaine, présenté comme un « ghetto de riches », compte quelques personnalités parmi ses habitants. Comme le fondateur de Free, Xavier Niel, ou le Premier ministre Bernard Cazeneuve.
  3. ^ "France v Google" – via The Economist.
  4. ^ "Lunch with the FT: Xavier Niel".
  5. ^ "Xavier Niel - Forbes". forbes.com. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  6. ^ "Cable & Wireless sells Monaco Telecom stake to Xavier Niel".
  7. ^ "Iliad management team". Iliad. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
  8. ^ Kumar, Udhaw. "Self-made Billionaire Xavier Niel: The Entrepreneurial Journey that Began at the Age 15". Brainprick. Brainprick. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  9. ^ O'Brien, Kevin. "A Billionaire Who Breaks the Mold". NYTimes. NYTimes. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  10. ^ "3617 ANNU, toujours une valeur sûre pour Iliad". freenews.fr. 15 July 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  11. ^ "Boursorama article".
  12. ^ "Home".
  13. ^ "The Most Active Angel Investor In The World On Investing Everywhere And Reaching Breakeven Fast". Business Insider. 17 March 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  14. ^ "Le Monde Ousts Top Manager". The New York Times. 15 December 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2011. Le Monde said the official, Éric Fottorino, had been ousted from his key role as president of the management board, where he will be succeeded by Louis Dreyfus, an adviser to Matthieu Pigasse, a Lazard banker who bought a controlling stake in Le Monde with Pierre Bergé, co-founder of the Yves Saint Laurent fashion house, and Xavier Niel, a telecommunications entrepreneur.
  15. ^ "This French tech school has no teachers, no books, no tuition – and it could change everything".
  16. ^ "Prison avec sursis pour Xavier Niel". L'Express. 27 October 2006. Retrieved 13 January 2011. Xavier Niel, pionnier de l'Internet en France et fondateur de la société Free, a été condamné à deux ans de prison avec sursis et 250 000 euros d'amende pour des détournements de fonds dans des sex-shops(...)Il lui était reproché d'avoir touché de 2000 à 2004 une somme d'environ 5000 euros par mois en espèces prélevée sur des recettes non-déclarées de sex-shops de Paris et Strasbourg, dans lesquels il possédait des intérêts financiers depuis les années 80. La justice le soupçonnait initialement de proxénétisme, en raison des activités de prostitution exercées par des employées de ces sex-shops. Il a bénéficié d'un non-lieu sur ce volet.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Xavier Niel at Wikimedia Commons