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# 474 Jean-Michel Besnier $4.76B

Random fact: Grandfather started the company with 17 cow milk cheeses.


Besnier and his two siblings own all of Lactalis, the world's largest maker of cheese. The Laval, France-based company has 250 production sites in 50 countries, about 80,000 employees and revenue of 18.5 billion euros ($21.2 billion) in 2018. The billionaire's grandfather founded the closely held business in 1933.

As of :
Last change -$25.2M ( -0.5%)
YTD change -$300M ( -5.9%)
Industry Food & Beverage
Biggest asset Groupe Lactalis
Citizenship France
Age 53
Wealth Inherited
View net worth over:   Max 1 year 1 quarter 1 month 1 week

Relative Value

Jean-Michel Besnier's net worth of $4.76B can buy ...

troy ounces of gold
barrels of crude oil

... and is equivalent to ...

of the GDP of the United States
of the total wealth of the 500 richest people in the world
of the top 100 U.S. college endowments
of the top 200 U.S. executives’ total awarded compensation
of U.S. existing home sales
times the median U.S. household income

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Net Worth Summary

Private asset
Public asset
Misc. liabilities
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The majority of Besnier's fortune is derived from his stake in BSA, the holding company that controls the closely held dairy-maker founded by his grandfather in 1933. The Besnier family owns 100% of BSA, according to a November 2016 regulatory filing from the company’s acquisition of Romanian dairy company Albalact SA.

Besnier and his two siblings each control about 25% of BSA through their stakes across three holding companies. The remaining value of the Besnier family’s shareholding in BSA is attributed to Jean-Michel's brother, Emmanuel, to reflect his status as Groupe Lactalis’s chief executive officer.

Lactalis is the world's largest maker of cheese and has 250 production sites in 50 countries and 80,000 staff, according to its website. The Laval, France-based company had annual revenue of 18.5 billion euros ($21.2 billion) in 2018, according to a March 2019 email from spokeswoman Caroline Hopu.

Besnier didn't respond to e-mailed requests for comment sent to Lactalis.


Birthdate: 6/5/1967
Family: Unmarried, No children

Jean-Michel Besnier was born in Paris, France, the son of Michel Besnier, the head of closely held dairy producer Besnier on June 5, 1967.

His grandfather, Andre, set up the family’s dairy business in 1933 through creating 17 camembert cheeses. Andre called these first products ‘Le Petit Lavallois’ in reference to the company’s location in Laval, western France, and grew Besnier to 25 employees by the end of the 1940s.

Jean-Michel’s father, Michel, took the company over from Andre after his death in 1955. He led Besnier into other European markets and the U.S., and changed the company’s name to ‘Lactalis’ in 1999 to make its title easier to pronounce worldwide. Jean-Michel’s younger brother, Emmanuel, became the milk-maker’s chief executive officer following their father’s sudden death the following year. Since then, Emmanuel has overseen a series of acquisitions, including a 2006 takeover of Italy's leading cheesemaker, Galbani, and the purchase of Rachel's, a U.K. manufacturer of organic yogurts.

Lactalis was forced to reveal its 2010 financial statements and ownership structure as part of a 2011 offering document the company released when it bought Parmalat, an Italian dairy and fruit juice producer. The same year, Emmanuel Besnier blocked the sale of Lactalis products to Leclerc, a French supermarket chain with more than 500 stores in the country, over its pricing policy. The dispute was resolved in January 2012. Six years later, Lactalis withdrew 12 million boxes of baby milk due to an outbreak of salmonella at one its factories.

  • 1933 Lactalis is founded by Besnier's grandfather Andre in Laval, France.
  • 1955 Besnier's father Michel takes over operations at the family company.
  • 1999 The family company changes its name from Besnier to Lactalis.
  • 2000 Father Michel dies suddenly. Brother Emmanuel takes over as Lactalis CEO.