Laurent Boix-Vives former boss of Rossignol died last Thursday aged 93. Boix-Vives was something of an exception in the stuffy world of French post war business. He was self taught in a country more used to leaders from the elite ENA (Ecole nationale d'administration) and the Grandes Ecoles de Commerce. His success at building Rossignol into a worldwide powerhouse won him acceptance and admiration. Among other honours he presided over the Institut pour le development industriel (IDI).
Son of Anselme Boix-Vives and Marie-Louis Marquez-Llull he was born in Brides-les-Bains on the 30th August 1926. His parents ran the local green grocers before moving down the valley to Moûtiers. Laurent started skiing as a child at Moriond (future Courchevel 1650). He would take the tram (The Electrobus) to Bozel then climb, skis on his shoulder, to the Roc Merlet. In 1943 he joined the resistance with his brother, Anselme jr. Laurent would transport arms across the col des Saises. Anselme was killed by German troops in the summer of 1944.
Following the war Laurent had plans to build a cable car from Seez to the col du Petit Saint-Bernard (future la Rosiere) or to install lifts on Mont Bochor above Pralognan la Vanoise. However he left school before completing his Bac., close to his father his dad's business was not doing too well and he needed someone who understood figures. In parallel he set up his own business importing potatoes from Holland with a shop at Courchevel 1850. To sell his produce he went from door to door in the Savoie where he witnessed first hand the depopulation of the mountains as the peasant farmers left to work in factories at Bozel or Moûtiers or to work in hotels in Paris. The ski industry looked like it could be the salvation of the population.
Finally it was at Moriond that he would build his first ski lifts at the start of the 1950s. In four years he constructed 20 lifts and he remained president of the Société des télépheriques de Moriond (STM) until it was taken over in 1999 by the Société des Trois Vallées. On his days off he skied the slopes of Courchevel where he rubbed shoulders with the rich and powerful such as Juan Carlos and Valerie Giscard dEstaing. The takeover didn't sit well with Mr Boix, as the Tarins called him. In 1999 St Bon didnt want to renew my franchise, I will never ski there again.
At Courchevel he met Olympic chamion Emile Allais. Allais was working with Laurent Chappis on the ski runs of the new resort. In 1956 Allais asked him to look over the accounts of Rossignol
who were in financial difficulty. The firm had a metal ski design that
seemed to have a lot of potential and he decided to buy the firm,
guarding just 30 of the firms 180 employees and the son of the founder.
The firms scored Olympic success with the Allais 60 at the Squaw games
of 1960 then launched the first fibreglass ski, the Strato, in 1964. The
Strato would go on to sell a million pairs. Only two other skis have
done the same, both from the Rossignol stable. A testament to Boix-Vives
foresite and managerial skills. At the age of 50 Le Nouvel Economiste
voted him Manager of the Year. With the opening of factories in the
United States and Europe Boix-Vives saw the globalisation of skiing and the
economies that could be achieved with a worldwide market. As part of
this strategy Rossignol also sought out foreign skiers to sponsor such
as Bode Miller and Alberto Tomba who had used Rossignol skis since he was 11
years old. Boix-Vives was a huge fan of la Bomba, to the point of
pardoning the Italian when he stole some vintage wine from his cellar in
Voiron. Boix Vives relinquished the reigns at Rossignol in 2005, his daughers were not interested in continuing in the business. In 2009 he was back at Courchevel opening a luxury hotel, the Strato named after his emblematic ski.