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"Albert Freer knocked me down at least three times" (Gilles Samin)

At 69, Gilles Samin withdrew. Albert Frère's right hand is engaged in an informal interview. "From now on, I can be myself, so I do not have to worry about the impact my words may have on the group or others."

His comments in the press have always been rare, millimeter, cautious. Thirty-five years in the service of Albert Frere, who died in December last year at the age of 92, learns of prudence. So, at the thought of a long retirement interview, Gilles Samine was not happy. He took the time to think. "I asked for permission from my wife. And then he said "yes" (thank you). "Okay, but not at home, I suggest we go somewhere to eat, I'm not going to come in a suit."

Pile on time. Zhil Samin is a precise person. No jacket or tie. Casual. "Of course I am free now, I left the presidency of the National Palace of Culture last week, I have no mandate for the Brother group, except for the administrator of Pernod Ricard"he said with a glass of water.


To celebrate his retirement, this marathon prepares his first … Ironman. In early July in Klagenfurt, Austria, it will be the starting line for 3.8 km of swimming, 180 km of cycling and a marathon that will end in style. "I am not putting pressure on myself, the goal is to finish."

This Sunday, as usual, he moves 20 km from Brussels. Generally, he folds the case in 1h35, 1h38. This year is slightly different. "I decided to go to Brussels with a bicycle from Bousval, where I live recently, which is 38. I run 20 km and then go back to my bike so it's a good training day for me.

It was not always over-sporting. He came to him for forty years to strengthen his back and finish with herniated discs many times. "It is that either they make me work, I choose to enter into sports, so is life, it gives you opportunities … in every danger, opportunity."

What I saved is not my money, I have to leave it to my children.

Zhil Samin, who describes himself as always unsatisfied, is the type who should do things well. This is true for both sports and work. "Work, work, work, this is one of the values ​​my father has planted in me, I've found it with Mr. Frere. Why this scarecrow, if you dare say a professional of high funding "deeply liberal"as he says? "To avoid mediocrity, this is my driving force, I'm not saying you have to be the first, the best, and if I graduated from Solvay Business School, I also know that it was certainly better than me a year before or after First, as well as in a marathon, it does not only depend on your performance but also on the shape of the others at a given moment, first of all, you must strive for the highest quartile, avoid mediocrity at all costs and not be in the crowd. "

He repels the plate of vegetables that barely touched. "Very well, but I'm talking too much, I do not have time to eat."

Work and luck

A sip of water and he throws himself into professional memories. He likes the idea that "Work and luck go together, I do not think I've ever made a career, life has given me opportunities, so it happened when you get skills in a field, the possibilities If you work more than another you will be more lucky. , at Solvay at Year 3, Eugene de Barsi offered me to become Francois Narmon's assistant student at that time – but thanks to my work he was thinking about me – work and luck, luck and work.

You do not have to go first. On the other hand, you should aim for the top quartile. Avoid mediocrity at all costs.

When he left Solvay, he faced 14 job offers. "I even saw a brother, he asked me how would you come to the office?" When I answered him by car, he said, "No, you will come to the train!" was young and did not want to work for a person who told me how to come to the office. The interview ended pretty fast. says an impulsive lion, his scout totem.

To be buried in Charleroi

Albert Brother.
© Photo News

After a few deviations, their roads will cross again. When Albert Frère bought GBL, where Gilles Samyn first entered. "Six months after my arrival, I left the group in complete disagreement with the managing directors, without clearly seeing their strategy. I was the young star who worked for Baron Lambert, and I had the impression that the new leadership puts me in a closet as far as possible from the decision-making places, which I should have patience with that Mr. Freer found me in the group but I was 32 years, I would have to wait for ages. "

"I settled on my bill and started very well. Six months later, Mr. Brother called me. He had to replace his Chief Financial Officer, who was leaving. It took me three days to answer him, asking me many existential questions. I had just started my business that worked, I would end up with two lines of shares in an office in Charleroi. And I do not know why, I told him yes. When I announced this at the Brussels nights, they said to me, "But Gille, are you crazy, will you bury yourself in Charleroi?"

How was it? "When you're with Bebert – I've called it that way in restaurants – when you are with Mr. Brother and negotiate for nine months with the deserters, Bertelsmann or Petrofina-Total deal, they are unforgettable moments, both are very serious and at the same time the theater, bluffing, psychology, and then at some point we get married. We reach the foundations of business, come to the people who work together, this is a chance to know these moments. "

If multiple voting shares existed, we, the Belgians of the Frère Group, would have mergers by keeping control.

Zhil Samin insists a lot on one point: it was a life of financial mastery. "We were craftsmen, one thing I'm sorry about the current finances is that she is dealing with processing, she orders due diligence, takes a lawyer, tax expert, banker, experts in this or that, and puts everything in process. saw a company as something For me, a company is a living creature, necessarily unique, because each time it is a specific team In the Flo group, for example, we broke our heads because we were wrong about the company's qualities and our ability to maneuver them well, the best master to work with this material group. "


Either. But, after all, what are the financial hits? What will be the benefit of Albert Frère's farms, apart from the spectacular enrichment of several? Zhil Samin obviously expected the question. And there, forgetting the chocolate mousse, he unfolds an explanation, obviously sprawled. "The usefulness of the Frère Group – I see at least three of them – one, we created value – we have offered shareholders the opportunity to outperform the market." I managed to achieve between 3 and 4% a year more than the market. Two, we allowed small and medium-sized enterprises to grow faster and faster by providing them with strategy, capital. It is true that we have sometimes failed, as in the case of Entremont, and three, on the main issues, we have contributed to the emergence of a corporate Europe. "

© Christoph Vadino

"A lot of people said: you sold Belgium, no, we created bands linking Belgian companies with European groups that became global and we had this structure for a number of Belgian companies. In Belgium, there was a multiple vote, as I suggested in the meantime, we, the Belgians from the Frère group, who would have mergers, keeping the control as Swiss or Swiss. But we are a small country with little capital, we do not have the same surface as the French or the Germans. "

My only problem now is to put my pension. Because I realize that without a team I'm definitely a less good investor.

This does not prevent Belgium from being like "Cokang's side", "Be careful, this does not mean that it is well managed! We, entrepreneurs, are constantly asking us to compare us with the best in class." If politicians impose this simple calculation, compare what they cost to the population compared to countries governed as Switzerland, Luxembourg or the Netherlands would be very useful. "

"These are not my money"

How is he compared to money? "I have no cash problems, but I do not consider myself to be rich, what I save is not my money, I have to leave it to my children (note that there are five My state of mind is that when I spend something, to ask permission from my children, I see money as a responsibility, a burden, not a blessing.

My only problem now is to set my pension because I realize that without a team, I'm a much less good investor, I will not say I'm bad, but I'm a good member of the team. When asked if I was the CEO of the National Palace of Culture, I said, "I am a patrol leader," as did the Scouts, and I had the pleasure of having only one boss, I did not have to ask a thousand shareholders. I knocked on Monsieur Frere's door and it was yes, no, we do … "

The secret Garden

Coffee? – No, thank you, the flat water is fine. Let's go back "Mr Brother". Was he never tired, he was the virtuoso of finance to be the right hand of businessman Carroll? "Never, but it must be said that he left me a field with complete freedom of a series of files, for example, Transcarr, DuPuy or Helio Charleroi, I had my secret garden as the other members of the team, and there were a few of us, his limited a circle in Charleroi who could tell him everything, he listened to us, we discussed it, but when the time for listening and discussion was over, there was a solution, Brother, most often in the process.

Once he even called Gérald (ndlr, son of Albert Frère) to tell him: you are preparing Gilles' closing papers. He's out, I do not want to see him anymore.

"He was my boss, but he always allowed me to disagree with him, in the case of Transskler, for instance, when we wanted to buy refineries in the United States to convince him to do that, I like. As far as I tell you it is … a great process … we respected him very much, especially because he respected us, and for those who deserved it, M. Frere was fully confident that Mr. Frere was gone now, I could not be the right hand of someone , who is not there anymore, and today I find myself once again wanting to call him this or that situation. "

Sometimes they screamed, "Brother Brother," and him? – With the others in the group I have often made a voice in the talks but with him never, but he, on the other hand, called to me, yes, he had to turn me on At least three times at the door, he even called Gérald , son of Albert Frère) to tell him: you're preparing Gilles' closing papers, he's out, I do not want to see him anymore. was a wonderful boss, but …

Charlero forever

Zhil Samin and his wife left Ham-Sur-Hure to Walloon Brabant. Getting closer to children and grandchildren. "Fortunately, I never had to declare to Mr. Frere that I left Charleroi, I think he would have been uncomfortable. As much as I had a negative view of Charleroi, I found this city terrible as far as I found an extraordinary region, with super nice people, almost sorry to have left, but I remain president of Saint-Roch mosque to Ham-sur-Hure! "

This will not be the only activity of this hyperactive: Gilles Samine still holds the responsibility for one or two files for the Frère group. "If not, I just made a small investment, I would do one thing or another because I think I'm good only there.

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