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Jeu.24 avril 201424/04/2014 Édition de la mi-journée

The day that French internet boss Xavier Niel made his fortune

|  Par Laurent Mauduit

Xavier Niel earned significant amounts of cash in his early business career through investing in sex shops. But the billionaire’s real money was made in the telecommunications industry through his development and ownership of internet service provider Free. Here, in the second part of Mediapart's investigation into the influential businessman, Laurent Mauduit examines the crucial day on which Niel consolidated his control over the company that was to make his name and his fortune.


Part one of Mediapart's investigation into the boss of Free showed how Xavier Niel had begun to amass the beginnings of a fortune thanks, in part, to his investment in sex shops in Paris and Strasbourg. At their peak these shops were earning Niel around 15,000 euros a month in cash.

But this was only the start of the entrepreneur’s money-making success story. The big money – the kind of money that has made him France's 12th wealthiest man - was to come not from the sex shop industry but from new technology, and most importantly from his stewardship of Free, which is today France's second biggest interest service provider and now a successful mobile phone operator too.

As with the rest of his early professional career, Niel, who is an indirect shareholder in Mediapart (see box marked boîte noire at the foot of this page), is not keen on discussing how he came to have ...

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