Chairman of the Management Board, Groupe Galeries Lafayette
Philippe joined the Monoprix Group at 21, as a trainee store manager. A few years later, he married the daughter of its Chairman, Mr. Etienne Moulin. His life changed thereon. He moved from Monoprix to Galeries Lafayette to take charge of the purchasing department. Philippe realised that if he wanted to move up the career ladder and assume more responsibilities he needed a proper business education. After discussing this with his father-in-law he decided to attend a business school.
“I met several INSEAD Alumni who recommended INSEAD to me. The one-year aspect of the MBA programme attracted me. At that time it would not have been possible for me to leave the Groupe for two years. But I came to a decision when I met a young lady whose husband had just finished INSEAD. Bernard Grison MBA’68 told me about what INSEAD could offer me. He filled me with excitement and encouraged me to apply, so I did. I was accepted at INSEAD with my five years of retail experience! I was one of only ten participants (out of 180) who didn’t have any qualifications.”
“Those of us who came to INSEAD with few, or no qualifications, got more out of it than our colleagues. We knew why we were here and what we wanted to learn. We were particularly impressed by the case method. In French schools, teachers give lectures but there is little opportunity to discuss or debate. The Anglo Saxon method, on the contrary, encouraged students to discuss what they were being taught and INSEAD used this approach. At first it was difficult for those of us who were French to learn this way and many of us went to see the Dean about our difficulties. But we learnt to embrace the case method. Many of the lessons learned through this method helped me to resolve problems at different stages in my career and is still serving me today.”
Upon graduation Philippe rejoined the family business and with his mother-in-law took the company back into private ownership and family control. The family has privately owned the Groupe Galeries Lafayette since 2005, when they acquired the majority of a 40% publicly owned stake. Today, the family owns 100% of the company.
Philippe is now the Chairman of the Management Board of Groupe Galeries Lafayette and is the fourth generation to run the family business that he joined more than 40 years ago.
Philippe was a pioneer in France for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the retail industry. In the mid ‘80s he started the green organics product initiative, known as Bio. The Groupe was also the first in its field to help with the development of fair trade products.
Over the last 35 years Philippe has maintained a very good relationship with INSEAD, serving on the board of the French Council and sending many of his managers on Executive Education programmes. Philippe has even presented Monoprix as a case study. A generous donor to the school, Philippe received his Gold Salamander in October 2009 in recognition of his contribution to INSEAD. He established The INSEAD Groupe Galeries Lafayette Endowed Scholarship for Women, open to women participants from Western Europe, Middle East and Asia.
In 2006 Philippe’s son Nicolas followed in his father’s footsteps and also graduated from the MBA programme at INSEAD.
“I am very proud, thanks to my wife, of having maintained a very good work-life balance over the last 40 years and having brought up three wonderful children, all of who work in the Groupe. In business, I am also very proud of what we have done with Galeries Lafayette. There are not many stores like it left in the world (the store on Boulevard Haussmann in Paris is the biggest in the world in term of sales). My ambition is to take what is a very successful national store group and make it global. We have reinvented both businesses but we will need to do it again in five to seven years if we are to survive.”
“How would I like to be remembered? In the mid 80’s/90’s, Galeries Lafayette was seen as a dinosaur of the retail industry, but after all these years we are still here and we are a very healthy company. So I would like to be remembered as the man who taught dinosaurs how to fly.”