By Gavin van Marle

CMA CGM is mourning its founder, Jacques Saadé, who died on June 25 in Marseilles at the age of 81. Originally from Lebanon, the man who came to dominate French container shipping left the country during its brutal civil war and moved to France. He founded Compagnie Maritime d’Affretement (CMA) in 1978 – it employed four people working on a one-ship service between Marseilles and Beirut.

Mr. Saadé gradually built up CMA’s service network, moving beyond the Mediterranean in 1983 and, in 1986, launched its first Asia-North Europe service. A Shanghai office was established in 1992. In 1996, he began to transform the company into a box shipping heavyweight when he effectively won the privatization process of French national line Compagnie Generale Maritime (CGM) and the CMA CGM group was formally created in 1999.

That heralded the beginning of an extraordinary period of merger and acquisition activity that has continued almost unabated since his son, Rodolphe, formally took the reins of the company last year. Other companies taken over by Mr. Saadé include Australian National Line (ANL) in 1998, French company Delmas in 2005, Taiwan’s Cheng Lie Navigation Co (CNC), US Lines in 2007, UK shortsea operator MacAndrews and Morocco’s COMANAV. In 2006, CMA CGM became the world’s third-largest shipping line.

“Jacques R. Saadé dedicated his life to CMA CGM. An extraordinary visionary and entrepreneur, he made the Group into a world leader in the maritime transport of containers, developing the company in more than 160 countries, while maintaining the family dimension with its values,” the company said in a statement today.

He also transformed the Marseilles skyline in 2006 when the new CMA CGM tower was unveiled. Built by the celebrated Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, the 33-flooor building dominates the city.

Reprinted courtesy of The Loadstar (