Jacques Saadé

Founder chairman of the CMA CGM Group.

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Jacques Saadé: the entrepreneur

Jacques Saadé was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1937. He died in Marseilles, France, on June 24, 2018.

After graduating from the London School of Economics in 1957, he took over the family business the following year.

In 1978, he moved to France, where he set up the Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement (CMA).

Anticipating major developments in world trade, and convinced that the container would have a determining role in these changes, he opened CMA’s first office in China, in Shanghai in 1992. China quickly became the most important market for CMA, which became the number one container shipping company in France.

From 1996 to 2008, Jacques Saadé pursued the Group’s expansion via external growth. In particular he acquired Compagnie Générale Maritime (CGM) when it was privatized in 1996, then merged CMA and CGM, which led to the birth of the CMA CGM Group in 1999.

This acquisition, a turning point in the Group’s history, was the first step in a series of targeted acquisitions that would contribute to positioning CMA CGM Group as a world leader in the shipping industry:

  • the government-owned Australian National Line (ANL) in 1998;
  • the French company DELMAS in 2005;
  • the Chinese company Taiwan’s Cheng Lie Navigation Co., Ltd. (CNC);
  • the American firm U.S. LINES in 2007;
  • the company MacAndrews;
  • The Morocco’s company COMANAV.

Thus, in 2005, the CMA CGM Group became the world’s third-largest shipping company.

Jacques Saadé: visionary industry leader

His long-term vision of the industry is also reflected in the construction of an efficient fleet of vessels, equipped with the most innovative technology.

To build the CMA CGM vessel fleet, Jacques Saadé decided early on to invest in large containerships while being particularly attentive to environmental issues and climate change. In this regard, between 2005 and 2015, the Group reduced CO2 emissions per container transported per kilometer by 50%, and has set itself an ambitious additional 30% reduction target between 2015 and 2025.

In June 2013, and for the first time since 1962, it was the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, welcomed by Jacques Saadé, who inaugurated the CMA CGM JULES VERNE, flagship of the CMA CGM fleet at the time.

CMA CGM serves more than 420 ports with a fleet of 494 vessels. In 2017, it carried more than 18.95 million TEUs. Present in 160 countries on five continents via a global network of 755 agencies, the Group employs more than 30,000 people worldwide, including 4,500 in France. In 2017, it reported a revenue of $21.1 billion.

With his strong attachment to Marseilles, the company’s birthplace, Jacques Saadé decided to build the CMA CGM Tower in 2006, which would be the new Head Office. The architect Zaha Hadid, winner of the 2004 Pritzker Architecture Prize, was entrusted with the design of the new building. Nerve centre of the company, overlooking the port of Marseilles, the 33-story CMA CGM Tower is the Group’s command and control centre and workplace for 2,400 employees since 2011.

Jacques Saadé, a recognized leader

Jacques Saadé has received numerous awards both in France and abroad for his achievements.

In 2007, he was named Maritime Personality of the Year by the international magazine Seatrade. He also received the Manley-Bendall award from France’s Académie de Marine and an Honorary Degree from the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport in Alexandria.

In 2012, Jacques Saadé received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by “Containerisation International”, the English magazine of container shipping.

In 2013, Jacques Saadé was recognized with one of the highest decorations of the City of Hamburg: "the Admiralitäts-Portugaleser."

In 2014, Jacques Saadé receives an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Humane Letters from the Lebanese American University (LAU).

In 2015, he is named Commander of the French Legion of Honor.

Jacques Saadé has been President of the Franco-Lebanese Chamber of Commerce from 1986 to 2014. He is also head of the France-Jordan business leaders council within Medef International. He is recipient of Lebanon’s National Order of the Cedar.

In December 2016, the Saadé family ranked 4th the Lloyd's List One Hundred, listing the most influential people of the shipping industry. Later this year, he was named Commandeur in the Ordre National du Mérite Maritime.

In 2017, Jacques Saadé is appointed Founder Chairman.

Jacques Saadé died in Marseilles on June 24, 2018.

Key dates

Born in Lebanon.
Graduates from the London School of Economics.
Jacques Saadé moves to Marseilles and founds CMA (Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement).
Opening of the first CMA office in China (Shanghai). China becomes the Group’s most important destination.
Jacques Saadé acquires CGM (Compagnie Générale Maritime) when it is privatized 1998 Acquisition by CMA of the National Australian Line ANL.
Acquisition by CMA of the National Australian Line ANL.
Merger of CMA and CGM, thereby creating the CMA CGM Group.
The CMA CGM Group becomes the world’s 5th largest shipping company.
Acquisition of The Compagnie des Iles du Ponant (luxury cruises)
Acquisition of Tapis Rouge, a high-end Tour Operator, then sold in 2012.
Acquisition by CMA CGM of the DELMAS group (Otal, Linea Setramar S.p.A., SudCargos).
The CMA CGM Group becomes the world’s 3rd largest shipping company and number one in France.
The Group launches the construction of the 147 metre-high new Headquarters designed by the architect Zaha Hadid.
Partnership with IBM to develop a dedicated information system.
Acquisition of the Chinese Company Cheng Lie Navigation Ltd.
Acquisition of the Moroccan company COMANAV.
Acquisition of the American company US Lines.
Acquisition of the London-based insurance Broker ARB.
Delivery of a new container ship of record high capacity of 11,000 teu.
CMA CGM named Company of the Year by International Freighting Weekly (IFW).
Delivery of the CMA CGM ANDROMEDA, first 11,400 teu container ship with green technology in favor of the environment.
CMA CGM awarded « Ocean Carrier of the Year » by the world N°1 retailer.
Jacques Saadé is named Officer of the French Legion of Honor.
The Group takes delivery of CMA CGM CHRISTOPHE COLOMB (13,300 teus), equipped with the latest environmental technologies.
Jacques Saadé is appointed Chairman of the Board.
The Group is named INTTRA Carrier of the Year and receives the SONY Best Partner Carrier Award.
November 25th, the Group signs a shareholder agreement with the family-run Turkish industrial group, YILDIRIM.
Jacques Saadé is appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CMA CGM Group.
September 2011, CMA CGM is named “Company of the Year” by the renowned Lloyd’s List journal.
October 2012, Jacques Saadé receives the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by “Containerisation International".
November 2012, CMA CGM MARCO POLO enters the Group's fleet. Measuring 396 meters in length, with a capacity of 16,020 TEU and the latest environmental technologies, this “giant of the seas” exemplifies the values of CMA CGM: boldness, imagination, innovation.
April 2013, CMA CGM JULES VERNE enters CMA CGM fleet. The largest containership in the world is inaugurated in Marseille by the President of the French Republic, François Hollande.
Jacques Saadé receives an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Humane Letters from the Lebanese American University (LAU)
During his visit in Hamburg, Germany on November 25th, Mr Jacques R. Saadé announces the acquisition of the German company OPDR (Oldenburg-Portugiesische Dampfschiffs-Rhederei GmbH & Co. KG).
During the 23rd general assembly of the Association of the Mediterranean Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCAME), Jacques R. Saadé received an award for encouraging the economic development of the Mediterranean Basin, as well as conveying a positive image of the and promoting peace and tolerance worldwide
Jacques Saadé is named Commander of the French Legion of Honor.
May 2015, the CMA CGM KERGUELEN enters the Group's fleet and becomes the new CMA CGM fleet flagship. Measuring 398 meters in length, with a capacity of 17,722 TEU and the latest environmental technologies, this giant is deployed on the Group’s largest shipping line: the French Asia Line.
The CMA CGM BOUGAINVILLE, the world largest containership sailing under French flag, is inaugurated on Tuesday October 6th by French President François Hollande in Le Havre. During the ceremony, French President François Hollande pays tribute to CMA CGM and Jacques Saadé success.
Jacques Saadé is named "Commandeur in the Ordre National du Mérite Maritime"
Jacques Saadé apoints Rodolphe Saadé Chief Executive Officer of the CMA CGM Group
Jacques Saadé appoints Rodolphe Saadé Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the CMA CGM Group. Jacques Saadé is appointed Founder Chairman.
Died in Marseilles, France.