Xavier Niel

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Xavier Niel
Xavier Niel004.jpg
Niel in 2014
Born (1967-08-25) 25 August 1967 (age 53)
Known forFounder and majority shareholder, Iliad
Net worthUS$6.7 billion (April 2020)[1]
TitleChief strategy officer, Iliad
Partner(s)Delphine Arnault[2][3]

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).[4] He is also co-owner of the newspaper Le Monde,[5] and co-owner of the rights of the song "My Way"[6] and owner of Monaco Telecom.[7] He is deputy chairman and chief strategy officer for Iliad.[8]

As of April 2020, his net worth is estimated at US$6.7 billion.[1]

Education and career[edit]

Xavier Niel was born into a rich family; his father is a jurist in a pharmaceutical laboratory, and his mother is an accountant. He studied in the 12th arrondissement of Paris at the Saint-Michel-de-Picpus Catholic private high school.[9][10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13] Niel remains Iliad's majority shareholder, holding 63.93%[14] 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,[15] 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.[16]

In late 2010 Niel was a member of a group of investors which acquired a controlling stake in the newspaper Le Monde.[17]

In 2012, he created Free Mobile, which offered unlimited voice calls, text and data.[18][19]

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.[20]

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.[21]

Judiciary problems[edit]

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.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Niel's domestic partner is Delphine Arnault, a billionaire in her own right and also the daughter of the richest man in France, Bernard Arnault. He has a daughter with her and two sons from a previous relationship, and lives in Paris.[1][2][3][23]


  1. ^ a b c "Forbes profile: Xavier Niel". Forbes. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Biographie de Xavier Niel" (in French). Challenges. Retrieved 25 May 2020. Le compagnon de Delphine Arnault, fille de Bernard Arnault, est le plus gros business angel français
  3. ^ a b Ellison, Jo (10 October 2014). "Lunch with the FT: Delphine Arnault". Financial Times. Retrieved 25 May 2020. She declines to confirm whether or not Niel is the father of her daughter, or even her daughter’s name.
  4. ^ "France v Google". The Economist.
  5. ^ Kuper, Simon (3 May 2013). "Lunch with the FT: Xavier Niel". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 3 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Xavier Niel - Forbes". Forbes. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  7. ^ "Cable & Wireless sells Monaco Telecom stake to Xavier Niel". Reuters. 25 April 2014 – via uk.reuters.com.
  8. ^ "Iliad management team". Iliad. Retrieved 21 December 2009.
  9. ^ "Xavier Niel, fondateur de Free, le cactus des télécoms". Capital.fr (in French). 26 March 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  10. ^ GODELUCK, Solveig; PAQUETTE, Emmanuel (20 October 2016). Xavier Niel (in French). edi8. ISBN 978-2-412-02140-8.
  11. ^ Kumar, Udhaw (27 December 2012). "Self-made Billionaire Xavier Niel: The Entrepreneurial Journey that Began at the Age 15". Brainprick. Brainprick. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  12. ^ O'Brien, Kevin (5 May 2013). "A Billionaire Who Breaks the Mold". The New York Times. NYTimes. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  13. ^ "3617 ANNU, toujours une valeur sûre pour Iliad". freenews.fr. 15 July 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  14. ^ "Société ILIAD ILD Euronext Paris : Secteur d'activité, Actionnaire, PDG et Capitalisation - Boursorama". www.boursorama.com.
  15. ^ "Kima Ventures - The most active Business Angel in the world". www.kimaventures.com.
  16. ^ "The Most Active Angel Investor In The World On Investing Everywhere And Reaching Breakeven Fast". Business Insider. 17 March 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
  17. ^ "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.
  18. ^ Garside, Juliiette (23 February 2012). "Xavier Niel: rebel storms bastions of Gallic elite". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  19. ^ Dillet, Romain (3 September 2012). "How The Telecom Company Free Disrupted The Mobile Landscape In France". TechCrunch. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  20. ^ "This French tech school has no teachers, no books, no tuition — and it could change everything". 13 June 2014.
  21. ^ Armstrong, Ashley (25 April 2014). "Cable & Wireless Communications sells Monaco stake to French billionaire". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 21 August 2020.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ 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.

External links[edit]

Media related to Xavier Niel at Wikimedia Commons