A spokesman for the Lagardere Group said Mr. Lagardere died from a "rare auto-immune illness." He had been in intensive care with a viral illness he had been suffering from following a hip operation in late February. Mr. Lagardere had turned over control of the company to his son, Arnaud, in 2001.
Custom inspector's son
A custom inspector's son by birth and an engineer by training, he built one of France's largest industrial conglomerates. Mr. Lagardere initially ran Matra, an aerospace and arms firm, but diversified that company into satellite and automobile manufacturing.
His concerns that the socialist leadership of France in the '80s might mean a nationalized defense industry led him to acquire Hachette. Despite this expansion, he was more closely identified with Lagardere's defense businesses. (Arnaud Lagardere has been more active in the company's publishing holdings.)
More recently, he was credited with being a prime mover behind the merger of European defense-related industries into the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, or EADS, of which Lagardere Group owns 15%.
In 2002, Lagardere Group's total revenues were $14.3 billion.