Founder and Chairman of the board of the CMA CGM Group, Jacques Saadé was born in 1937 in Beirut, Lebanon.
Having graduated from the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1957, Jacques Saadé took over the family business from his father in 1958.
In 1978, when the war started in Lebanon, he decided to move to France. In Marseille, Jacques Saadé formed Compagnie Maritime d’Affrètement (CMA), which would later become CMA CGM.
A visionary and recognized expert in international trade, Jacques Saadé was convinced early on of the need to develop a worldwide shipping Group. Consequently, in 1992, he opened CMA’s first office in China, in Shanghai. China quickly became part of the corporate strategy of the Group which would soon reach the rank of the first container shipping company in France.
From 1996 to 2008, Jacques Saadé pursued the Group’s expansion via external growth, by operating several successive acquisitions. Firstly, CGM (Compagnie Générale Maritime) joined CMA in the frame of its privatization in 1996. This merger operated in 1999 led to the formation of the CMA CGM Group. The acquisitions of ANL in 1998, of the DELMAS Group in 2005, of CNC (Cheng Lie Navigation Co Ltd.), a Chinese operator, then of the Moroccan shipping company COMANAV, and of US LINES in 2007, are part of a strategy that contributed in advancing the CMA CGM Group to the position of 3rd biggest shipping company worldwide.
In addition to overseeing the Group’s rapid development, Jacques Saadé focused on the success of his worldwide shipping Group, by building an efficient fleet of vessels equipped with the most innovative technology. He made the strategic decision very early on for CMA CGM to invest in large containerships and developed a culture and environmental policy to address the issue of climate change.
In 2012, the CMA CGM Group took delivery of the CMA CGM MARCO POLO, the first vessel in the 16,020 container category, measuring 396 metres in length, and equipped with the latest environmental technology. In 2013, the sisterships of this first true giant of the seas, the CMA CGM ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLT and CMA CGM JULES VERNE, will join the fleet.
Strongly attached to Marseille, the company’s birthplace, Jacques Saadé decided to build the CMA CGM Tower, the new Head Office of CMA CGM. He entrusted the architect Zaha Hadid (2004 Pritzker Prize) to design the building. Overlooking the port of Marseille, the 33-storey CMA CGM Tower is the Group’s command and control centre and the workplace for 2,500 employees since 2011.
CMA CGM is today the world’s third largest container shipping company and French market leader.
Jacques Saadé has received numerous awards in France and elsewhere for his outstanding achievements. In 2007, he was named Personality of the Year by the international magazine Seatrade. He also received the Manley-Bendall award from France’s Académie de Marine and an Honorary Degree from the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport in Alexandria.
In October 2012, Jacques Saadé received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the English container shipping magazine Containerisation International.
In 2013, Jacques Saade has been awarded of one of the highest and most honorable decorations of the City of Hamburg: “the Admiralitätsportugaleser
In 2014, Jacques Saade was awarded Doctor Honoris Causa by the Lebanese American University (LAU).
Jacques Saadé has been President of the France-Lebanese Chamber of Commerce from 1986 to 2014. He is also head of the France-Jordan business leaders’ council within Medef International. Jacques Saadé was made an Officer of France’s Légion d’Honneur in 2009. In 2015, he was appointed Commander of France’s Légion d’Honneur. He also is a recipient of Lebanon’s National Order of the Cedar.
In December 2016, the Lloyd’s List Magazine listed the Saadé family as the 4th place of the Lloyd’s List One Hundred, an annual classification ranking the most influencial personalities from the shipping industry.
This very same year, Jacques Saadé was made Commandor of France’s Order of Maritime Merit.