CMA CGM founder Jacques Saadé passes away

Jacques Saadé, founder of French container line CMA CGM, passed away yesterday at the age of 81.

Saadé was born in Beirut in 1937 and moved to Marseilles and founded Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement (CMA) in 1978. He acquired Compagnie Générale Maritime (CGM) when it was privatised in 1996, then merged CMA and CGM which led to the birth of the CMA CGM Group in 1999.

Saadé was an early believer in containerised freight, anticipating major developments in world trade and convinced that the container would have a determining role in world maritime transport. He opened CMA’s first office in Shanghai in 1992, predicting that China would become the world’s largest container shipping market.

Nowadays, CMA CGM is the third largest containerline in the world, serving more than 420 ports with a fleet of nearly 500 vessels.

“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,” CMA CGM said in an announcement.

Jacques Saadé appointed his son Rodolphe Saadé as chief executive officer of the CMA CGM Group in February last year and then appointed him chairman of the board last November.

French prime minister Edouard Philippe, on an official trip to China, said Saadé was a “visionary entrepreneur” and was one of the first people to anticipate China’s immense potential.

From Marseilles, Saadé’s adopted home of the last 40 years, the city’s mayor, Jean-Claude Gaudin, also paid tribute to one of container shipping’s most famous names. Gaudin, mayor since 1995, said: “With the death of Jacques Saadé, Marseilles has lost one of its most important ambassadors.”

Saadé has left his mark on the Provence city with the opening seven years ago of new headquarters at CMA CGM Tower, which, at 147 m in height, is the city’s tallest building.

Rolf Habben Jansen, the CEO of German containerline Hapag-Lloyd, told Splash today: “Hapag-Lloyd mourns the passing of Jacques Saadé, the founder of CMA CGM. He was an outstanding, charismatic and visionary leader who shaped our industry for decades. With his inspiring personality and his passionate work he made CMA CGM one of the top container shipping companies in the world. In these days our thoughts are with his family and with all employees of CMA CGM.”

“He was a visionary, and often quick to spot an opportunity,” Jeremy Nixon, CEO of the merged Japanese container shipping giant Ocean Network Express, remarked to Splash.  

Meanwhile, in Seoul, Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) officials also praised Saadé for his leadership in growing the container shipping business across the world.

“All HMM employees and HMM CEO and president Mr C.K. Yoo are so sorry to hear that a great star in the global shipping industry has fallen,” a spokesperson for HMM told Splash. “He was a great entrepreneur and a true leader in the maritime transport of containers. We, HMM, will remember him as an exceptionally special leader.”



Jason Jiang

Jason is one of the most prolific writers on the diverse China shipping & logistics industry and his access to the major maritime players with business in China has proved an invaluable source of exclusives. Having been working at Asia Shipping Media since inception, Jason is the chief correspondent of Splash and associate editor of Maritime CEO magazine. Previously he had written for a host of titles including Supply Chain Asia, Cargo Facts and Air Cargo Week.


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