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Shipping Billionaires’ Family Office Retools Team After Windfall

Image courtesy CMA CGM

Shipping Billionaires’ Family Office Retools Team After Windfall

Bloomberg
Total Views: 8965
June 24, 2023

By Tara Patel

(Bloomberg) –The family office of the billionaire Saade shipping clan is rearranging top management as it deals with a pandemic windfall. 

Michel Sirat, 62, formerly chief financial officer at CMA CGM, the container-ship line controlled by the Saades, recently took over as head of Merit France, the firm that oversees the family’s fortune.

Joseph Dakkak, who previously helped run the family office, has resigned, according to a filing this week. He’s expected to remain with the transport company heading a regional office out of Lebanon, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing personnel issues.

A CMA CGM spokesperson declined to comment beyond a statement in December about Sirat relinquishing his role as CFO. 

The Saades’ empire has undergone a transformation following a period of unprecedented gains at closely held CMA CGM, where Rodolphe Saade is chief executive officer. Shipping companies benefited from record transport rates during the pandemic, sending billions of dollars in dividends to their owners.

While the industry has since slumped, CMA CGM emerged from the pandemic with far more diversified offerings, including adding air cargo through an investment in Air France KLM and bolstering its logistics capabilities. The company recently snapped up Bollore SE’s logistics arm — a record purchase with an enterprise value of €5 billion ($5.5 billion). Rodolphe Saade is also building up media assets. 

The Saade family is worth about $21.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The heirs — including Rodolphe, 53, sister Tanya, 55, and brother Jacques, 51 — own 73% of CMA CGM, held through Merit. 

In addition to running Merit, Sirat oversees M&A and strategy for CMA CGM. He was succeeded as CFO by Ramon Fernandez, who previously had the same role at French telecom operator Orange SA.

Dakkak was a top lieutenant for late founder Jacques Saade, who hired him in 2015 to help run Merit at a time when it was still based in Lebanon. 

Saade immigrated with his family to Marseille and started the shipping company in 1978 with one leased vessel. Merit’s headquarters was transferred to France around 2021 following pressure from the French government and amid a tax probe by authorities in that country. 

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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