He was born to a very young mother and his Bedouin father gave him away to his grandparents at age four, following his mother’s death. No document recorded the day he was born into a Bedouin tribe.
To make birthdays easier, his children picked a date out of a hat.
As for the birth year, he had to choose one when he came to Montpellier (France), to start a new life; 1948 sounded about right.
CV (in a nutshell) :
Date of birth (chosen): March 9, 1948
French nationality, Syrian origin
1972 – Gets Physics and Maths BSc from the University of Montpellier
1976 – Gets Computer Science PhD from the University of Paris-VIII
1976 – Working as an engineer at Alcatel and Thomson (France)
1980 – Working as an engineer in the IT department of ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company)
1985 – Takes over Méfran and founds Altrad Group
A few years later he went to live with another relative near Raqqa. He earned a baccalaureate, graduating first in the region and earning a scholarship to study in France.
"I had no special dream at the time", Mohed says. "Only the ambition not to accept my initial destiny."
Forbidden from attending school, Mohed Altrad learned to read on his own. Eventually, he received a scholarship to study in France
Arrives at Montpellier, he is about 17 years
He spent a few months learning French, but when he started his studies in physics and math at the University of Montpellier, he could understand only one-tenth of what the professors said
During summer breaks from college, Altrad worked in the vineyards around Montpellier picking grapes for €12 a day.
His French had become fluent enough to meet and marry a French woman who was also at the University. While studying, he worked as an engineer for various technology firms.
Ph.D in Computer Sciences
Qualified for French citizenship
Abu Dhabi Oil Company
In 1980, shortly after finishing his PhD, he saw a job posting in Le Monde by the government of Abu Dhabi. He was intrigued by the prospect of returning to the Middle East, and got hired to work in the IT department of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
In 1985, he embarqued on a path that would make him a billionaire. At the time, while vacationing at his in-laws, in the village of Florensac, a neighbour told him about a debt-ridden scaffolding manufacturer that was up for sale. He didn't know the French word for scaffolding, but was interested. He partnered with Richard Alcock, and the pair bought the company for next to nothing and assumed all liabilities.
"It was an intuitive thing", Altrad says. "I saw that the product was very useful, since you need scaffolding in every sector: construction, refineries, airports."
Altrad Group begins
He immediately cut costs and layered in more incentive-based pay - methods the French workforce bought into because the boss had serious skin in the game. Investing and leading by example motivated the French to buy into this method
"I told people that I was putting in all the money I'd earned in five years. They thought: He believes in us.""
Within a year the company was making a small profit and launching subsidiaries in Spain and Italy.
"He never talked about his ambitions," Alcock recalls. "The goal was just to get bigger."
|"You have to prove yourself several times more than ordinary businessmen", Mohed says.|
During the recession, the fledging company lost a quarter of its revenues in six months. What saved it, Altrad says, was that he'd seen the downturn coming half a year earlier and had taken all compulsory initiatives to go through this difficult period.
First publication of Badawi
First published in 1994, Badawi is less a celebration of rags-to-riches success than a story about the pain of being caught between two worlds.
"Largely, it's true", says Altrad.
He often writes before dawn, when he can't sleep. "Sometimes life is difficult", Altrad says. “Some people do sports, make love or drink. I need to write.” It was well received by critics and won a literary prize in 2003. In 2012 the Academy of Montpellier recommended the novel for its curriculum in regional schools.
Revision of Badawi
He forged ahead, mainly by acquiring smaller competitors and expanded beyond France, into Italy and Spain. In 2003, Altrad capitalised and bought German competitor Plettac.
Marketing the Altrad Group
The company hired public relations strategists to build brand awareness.
Nevertheless, during this phase of strong external growth, Altrad decides to always highlight the unique pathways of the acquired subsidiaries, to give them time to grow and develop fully in the Altrad universe. A way for the entrepreneur to stand out and differentiate himself from his competitors.
"Mohed became well known both as himself and as an entrepreneur", says Alcock
Receives the Legion of Honor in 2005 for his accomplishments, he sometimes feels he might never be able to be French enough.
Richard Alcock sells Altrad shares
With the Altrad business booming globally, rugby arrived on the scene.
Altrad had never attended a live match but when Montpellier mayor requested he bail out the financially-stricken local club he stepped in.
"Here in France, when you are owner of a rugby club, it is a political weapon. Most of the politicians see you as an adversary. I'm not. I try to help the city since I'm here."
Non-disclosed debts quickly arose. Much like business world, the sporting sphere doubted and did not accept him immediately either.
Award winning coaching staff implemented and rotated.
"I have to prove maybe more than anyone else that what I'm doing and saying is correct. Apparently, this is the rule of the game for me. But I am progressing. My business is doing well - my club is progressing."
New Head Coach
Vernon Anthony Cotter, New Zealand rugby union coach and former player
Altrad has invested €20 million of his fortune since purchasing Montpellier rugby and with it, a passionate attachment evolved.
Making history in 2018
Altrad has committed €35 million over the next five years
towards the French national team.
He received the Knight of the French Legion of Honor and was promoted Officer
Mohed supports Doctors Without Borders, and the French League Against cancer.
French Entrepreneur of the Year 2014
Altrad won Ernst & Young's World Entrepreneur Of The Year award. It netted him an invite from then President Barack Obama to speak at a political summit in Nairobi, Kenya
President François Hollande asked Altrad to lead the newly-formed Agence France Entrepreneur, a government organisation promoting entrepreneurship in the country's most impoverished communities that typically rim the outskirts of cities.
"I didn't know anything about it (the agency)", he says
Nevertheless, he accepted.
The agency begins to operate in April 2016. It focuses on 12.8 million French citizens living in 1,500 low-income communities.
"I'm so honored to receive this prestigious award, especially as there was strong competition from such outstanding entrepreneurs around the world. I want to dedicate this award to everyone, as the objective of life is to help humanity. My story should tell anyone that you can change your destiny."
- Prezioso Linjebygg
- Cape plc
Between 2015 and 2017, in less than 25 months, Altrad almost triples its size, following the takeover of three leading European industrial services companies: firstly, the Dutch firm Hertel, and then the French group Prezioso Linjebygg, and finally the British company Cape plc.
These three major operations complete the already significant list of companies which specialise in the provision of industrial services (Altrad Balliauw, Altrad Rodisola, Altrad NSG, Poujaud, Comi Service, Arnholdt, Altrad Asia…).
“When I acquired my first company in 1985, I had no plans in mind to build it into a group with an international dimension. I wanted above all to allow the company to develop. But over the years, many steps have been taken and the Altrad group is now extremely solid. It is true that nothing can be taken for granted, but I think we can all be confident for the future.”
Altrad is a global leader in the provision of industrial services, generating high added value solutions principally for the Oil & Gas, Energy, Power Generation, Process, Environment and Construction sectors. The group is also a recognised leader in the manufacturing of equipment dedicated to the Construction and Building market.