Years at current company: 28
Rate of growth: 5.6% in 2017
In the space of twenty years, Xavier Niel has become one of the icons of French innovation. After acquiring an erotic chat services publisher, which he renamed "Iliad" in the 1990s, he developed a new type of internet access offering in 2002 with Freebox ‒ combining telephony and television. Iliad quickly established itself as a well-known telecommunication group, operating in France, Italy and Morocco.
Notable success: The notion of freedom underpins his business plan. The businessman limits internal expenditure in order to control prices and offer products that are accessible to less affluent consumers.