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Fractious Dassault Billionaires Go Into Overtime to Find New Leader

The clock is ticking in the search for the family holding company’s new head, who will set the agenda for a group that sits at the heart of modern France.  

Marcel Dassault in 1981.

Marcel Dassault in 1981.

Photographer: Gilbert Uzan/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
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At a sprawling, high-security factory complex in Mérignac, near Bordeaux, thousands of workers make two of the world’s most technologically advanced flying machines: the sleek, stealth Rafale fighter jet and the Falcon line of private planes favored by globe-trotting celebrities like Richard Branson and Taylor Swift. 

The aircraft are the crown jewels of an empire controlled by the Dassault family, one of the world’s wealthiest business dynasties, whose origins stretch back more than a century and whose activities have helped shape modern France. With a net worth of $28 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the family holds a unique position within the inner sanctum of the French military-political establishment.