Scor did not specify the cause of his death, but a source interviewed by AFP praised his "courage in the face of the disease". A few weeks ago, the chairman of Scor appeared emaciated at the group's General Assembly.

Genius for some, tyrant for others, this former professor of social sciences became in 1990 president of the French Federation of Insurance Companies.

With 11 years of presidency to his credit, "he has left a lasting mark" on the teams, "in particular by engaging in the modernization of the federal structure and building a quality social dialogue," responded Friday France Insurers to AFP, praising the "charisma" and "vision" of a man with "multiple passions".

Mulhousien passed by HEC, Denis Kessler, number 2 of the Medef from 1998 to 2002, "was one of the inspirations" of the movement, "a brilliant mind, iconoclastic, often provocative, and so endearing," paid tribute Friday in a tweet its current president Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux.

The number 2 of the organization and candidate to succeed Mr. Roux de Bézieux, Patrick Martin, paid tribute to "a man of rare intelligence and culture".

In a statement issued Saturday, President Emmanuel Macron hailed "the memory of a man who had made the thought of risk the driving force of his action".

Turnaround of Scor

Portrayed by the press as ultra-liberal, Mr Kessler - who preferred to define himself as "ultra-free" - fought against the 35-hour week.

Saying he was "profoundly European", he was close to the CFDT and in particular to Nicole Notat, whom he rubbed shoulders with when he was number 2 of the Medef.

Denis Kessler during an economic conference, in Paris, December 5, 2014 © Eric PIERMONT / AFP / Archives

The former president of the Medef Laurence Parisot hailed on Twitter "a genius, thunderous, brilliant, sometimes unbearable, creative like nobody, and who has brought so many ideas to companies and the economy of our country".

The reinsurer Scor was on the verge of bankruptcy, after the attacks of September 11, 2001 and the bursting of the dotcom bubble, when he was offered, urgently, to become CEO on a Sunday in 2002.

Under his leadership, the company recovered from 12th to 4th place in the world in terms of turnover.

"We have turned this group around, with an exceptional team, which I am extremely proud of," he told AFP before handing over the general management in June 2021, while keeping his chairmanship.


Its management and salary were then contested by minority shareholders, in a turbulent context for Scor, which had just made peace with the insurance group Covéa, after several years of a legal and media tug-of-war engaged after the attempt to buy the first by the second.

"He is someone who does not let go of his bone" and with an "absolutely volcanic temperament," said several collaborators, describing him as "bloody".

Denis Kessler at the Medef summer days, August 29, 2013, in Jouy-en-Josas (Yvelines) © Eric PIERMONT / AFP

"I have never made lukewarm water in my life," defended Mr. Kessler, for whom "success in business is the ability to decide". "I am loyal in friendship, as in enmity," he assumed.

"Over the past two decades, Denis Kessler has been the architect of Scor's success and reputation worldwide," said Thierry Léger, the group's current CEO. "He leaves us an extraordinary legacy."

"He will have left his mark on the world of insurance and reinsurance and greatly contributed to the dissemination of economic science in our country as well as to the modernization of the relationship between business and society," Bernard Spitz, former president of the French Insurance Federation, told AFP.

Denis Kessler was a member of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council from 1993 to 2010. He has also been a director of Dexia, Bolloré, BNP Paribas and Dassault Aviation, among others.


© 2023 AFP