AXA’s Bébéar to Step Down

February 28, 2008

When the AXA Supervisory Board met on February 27, 2008 to review AXA’s 2007 financial statements, prepared by the Management Board (see related article), its members received official confirmation that Board Chairman Claude Bébéar has decided not to seek the renewal of his mandate.

“I had announced that I would give up the operating management of AXA upon turning 65, which I did in 2000,” Bébéar stated. “I have always encouraged the practice, according to which the mandate of a Board member over 70 shall not be renewed. This practice now applies to me and I will hence leave the Board.”

He added that the AXA Supervisory Board “now enjoys the varied talents and worldwide experience of many quality people. I am convinced that Jacques de Chateauvieux [who is slated to take over as Board Chairman] whose values and human qualities I much appreciate – and whose professional life, beyond his business success, has led him to develop his company all over the world – has the skills to chair the debates of the AXA Supervisory Board and continue the constructive relationship the Supervisory Board has developed with the Management Board to ensure the development of the Group.”

Bébéar will still be around, however, as he is in line to be designated as AXA’s “Honorary Chairman.”

A resolution will be submitted to the vote of the shareholders to appoint François Martineau as a new board member. AXA also announced that the Supervisory Board and the Management Board had decided to support the candidacy of Wendy Cooper, an AXA Equitable employee in the United States, for a Board position, replacing Jacques Tabourot, member of the Supervisory Board representing the employee shareholders of the AXA Group and whose mandate is expiring.

The Supervisory Board – joined by the Management Board of AXA – unanimously expressed its “deepest gratitude to Claude Bébéar for his contribution to the construction and development of AXA over the past four decades, turning AXA into a world leader in Financial Protection.”

Bébéar is indeed an outsized figure in France, analogous to Hank Greenberg’s status in the U.S. Over the past 30 years he has built AXA into a worldwide financial services and insurance leader from very humble origins.

AXA’s bulletin described his career as follows: Beginning in 1975, 16 years after starting his career at Anciennes Mutuelles, Claude Bébéar takes over the management of a company then renamed Mutuelles Unies whose reach is mostly regional and which is active in property & casualty insurance.

Through a series of audacious takeovers (Groupe Drouot, Providence, Compagnie du Midi) in France first and then abroad, he will turn AXA into a leading French insurance company and then into a top global player

Beginning in 1990 with the “American adventure” and the acquisition in 1992 of Equitable, to Asia-Pacific with Melbourne-based National Mutual, he doubled the the size of AXA with the takeover of UAP in 1996.

From revenues of €150 million [$226 million at current rates, much less at the time] in 1980, Claude Bébéar will grow the company to €75 billion [$113 billion] 20 years later and €94 billion [$142 billion] in 2007.”

AXA’s business, which is around 2/3 life insurance, “ranks among the world’s four largest asset managers with close to €1,300 billion [$1,962 billion, i.e.$1.96 trillion] of assets under management and 120,000 employees serving 65 million customers in 50 countries.”

By any standard Bébéar’s achievements in building AXA deserve to be ranked at the very top of business success stories.

Source: AXA Group-

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