French billionaire MP Olivier Dassault dies in helicopter crash

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French billionaire MP Olivier Dassault dies in helicopter crash

French President Emmanuel Macron calls Dassault’s ‘sudden death’ a ‘tragic loss’.

French MP and billionaire Olivier Dassault has died in a helicopter crash in north-western France.

French billionaire politician Olivier Dassault died on Sunday in a helicopter crash in France’s northwestern region of Normandy, parliamentary and probe sources told AFP.

The accident occurred on Sunday evening in Normandy where he had a holiday home, according to police sources.

In his tribute, President Emanuel Macron said Dassault, 69, loved France and his death would be “a great loss”.

Olivier Dassault was elected to the National Assembly – France’s lower house of parliament – in 2002 and represented the Oise area of northern France.

The MP, from the centre-right Republicans, was considered the 361st richest man in the world – worth an estimated €6.3bn ($7.3bn; £5.2bn) according to Forbes.

Translation: Olivier Dassault loved France. Captain of industry, deputy, local elected official, reserve commander in the air force: during his life, he never ceased to serve our country, to value its assets. His sudden death is a great loss. Thoughts to his family and loved ones.

Olivier Dassault was the son of industrialist Serge Dassault and grandson of Marcel Dassault whose group builds Rafale warplanes and owns Le Figaro newspaper.

Dassault Marcel
Marcel Dassault

Olivier Dassault grandfather Marcel Dassault (born Marcel Bloch; 22 January 1892 – 17 April 1986) was a French industrialist who spent his career in aircraft manufacturing.

He stepped down from his role on the board of Dassault due to his political role to avoid any conflict of interest.

Olivier, seen as the favourite of founder Marcel, was once considered favoured to succeed Serge at the head of the family holding, but that role went to former Dassault Aviation CEO Charles Edelstenne.

Olivier Dassault grandfather Marcel Dassault fight against the Nazis

Marcel Bloch in deportee clothes
Marcel Bloch in deportee clothes. (1945)

During the occupation of France by Nazi Germany, France’s aviation industry was virtually disbanded, other than the compulsory manufacturing, assembly and servicing of German designs.

In October 1940, Bloch refused to collaborate with the German occupiers at Bordeaux-Aéronautique and was imprisoned by the Vichy government. In 1944 the Nazis deported Bloch to the Buchenwald concentration camp, as punishment for refusing to co-operate with their regime.

He was tortured and beaten and held in solitary confinement. In the meantime, his wife was interned near Paris. Bloch was detained at Buchenwald until it was liberated on 11 April 1945. By the time of his return to Paris he was crippled to such an extent that he could barely walk. He was advised by his doctors to settle his affairs, as they did not expect him to recover his health.

After the war, he changed his name from Bloch to Bloch-Dassault and in 1949 to Dassault. Dassault was the nom de guerre used by his brother, General Darius Paul Bloch, when he served in the French resistance and is derived from char d’assaut, French for “battle tank”. In 1971 Dassault acquired Breguet, forming Avions Marcel Dassault-Breguet Aviation

The helicopter carrying Dassault crashed near Deauville at about 18:00 (1700 GMT), sources told AFP news agency. The pilot was also killed, the sources added. No-one else was on board.

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