Bloomberg Billionaires Index

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# 266 Xavier Niel $8.16B

Random fact: Labeled a "gypsy" by rival French billionaire Martin Bouygues.


Niel is the founder and owner of Iliad, a Paris-based telecommunications services provider. The company, which operates the Free brand, had 6.8 million fixed broadband customers and more than 13.6 million mobile subscribers as of December 2021. It reported revenue of 7.6 billion euros ($9 billion) in the same year.

As of :
Last change +$5.03M ( +0.1%)
YTD change +$365M ( +4.7%)
Biggest asset Iliad
Country / Region France
Age 55
Industry Technology
View net worth over:   Max 1 year 1 quarter 1 month 1 week

Relative Value

Xavier Niel's net worth of $8.16B 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

Latest News

Net Worth Summary

Private asset
Public asset
Misc. liabilities
Confidence rating:

The majority of Niel's fortune is derived from Iliad, a French telecommunications company. The company had 6.8 million fixed subscribers and 13.6 million mobile subscribers as of December 2021, according to its website.

He held 96% of the business as of Sept. 29, 2021, according to the company. The billionaire increased his stake during 2021 after holding a 70% stake in December 2020, according to Iliad's annual registration document. Iliad is valued in this analysis based on its final share price on Oct. 14, 2021.

A liability is included based on an analysis of insider transactions, dividends, market performance, taxes and charitable contributions. It includes a calculation of the post-debt value of other asset purchases.

He controls about 27% of the voting rights in Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, according to a May 2022 filing.

The billionaire owns a majority stake in the French daily newspaper Le Monde, according to a January 2022 report.

He also controls investment fund Kima Ventures, which invests in 50 to 100 companies a year, and owns the music publishing catalog of French singer Claude Francois, the writer who wrote the original French version of the song "My Way," made famous by Frank Sinatra. These assets aren't included in his net worth calculation. People familiar with the catalog, who asked not to be named because the matter is private, said the value is nominal relative to Niel's total fortune.


Family: Single, 3 children

Xavier Niel was born in Creteil, France, on Aug. 25, 1967, to a father who studied law and medicine and a mother who supported the family as an accountant. He began his career at age 16, when he dropped out of high school and created chat services for Minitel, a French precursor to the World Wide Web.

That business led Niel to create a number of companies, including some for sex chat service Minitel Rose. He sold most of them in 1997, with the exception of two peep shows, one in Paris and one in Strasbourg. Holding on to them proved troublesome seven years later, when French police raided his apartment and jailed him pending charges for pimping and tax evasion. He was fined 250,000 euros for non-declared earnings and cleared of the procurement charges, avoiding a two-year prison sentence.

Niel bought Fermic Multimedia in 1991, a company specialized in software for Minitel that was on the verge of bankruptcy. He used it to create 3617 Annu, the first online reverse directory that allowed Minitel users to find the names attached to telephone numbers. He invested in Worldnet two years later, the first French internet service provider and sold his stake seven years later for 40 million euros.

The billionaire introduced Free in 1999, an Internet service provider that had quick success by providing customers with an access modem for free, and charging for a discounted dial-up internet service. Free is now France's second-largest Internet service provider. He expanded Free's business by creating Freebox, the first set-top box to provide telephone, Internet and television through one service in 2002. Iliad, the parent company of Free, listed on the Paris stock exchange in January 2004.

Niel introduced the company's first mobile telephone service in 2012. The service offered unlimited calls and data for 20 euros a month and a two euro plan that included two hours of calls and data a month. Free has over 6.1 million broadband subscribers and over 11.7 million mobile subscribers as of March 15, 2016.

He joined an investment partnership that acquired two-thirds of French daily newspaper Le Monde in 2010. He formed Kima Ventures, an angel investment fund which invests in 50 to 100 start-ups per year. He also owns the music publishing catalog of French singer Claude Francois, who wrote the single "Comme d'habitude," its melody made famous by Frank Sinatra with his translated version, "My Way."

Xavier Niel launched 42, a free information technology university aimed at training 1,000 developers a year, in March 2013. He announced the launch in 2016 of the world's largest digital incubator, six months later. It will be based at the Halle Freyssinet in Paris.

Niel lives in Paris. He is dating Delphine Arnault, daughter of French billionaire Bernard Arnault, according to W Magazine.

  • 1967 Born in a Paris suburb to a law student father and accountant mother.
  • 1983 Drops out of high school and creates Minitel chat services.
  • 1993 Makes first investment in Worldnet, the first French internet service provider.
  • 1999 Introduces Free, a discount Internet service provider.
  • 2002 The Freebox is unveiled, Iliad's first "triple-play" service.
  • 2013 Launches 42, a free IT school aimed at training 1,000 developers a year.
  • 2014 Makes $15 billion bid for T-Mobile's U.S. mobile unit.
  • 2014 Agrees to buy Orange Switzerland for $2.9 billion.