"The Great Gentlemen, we think they are eternal"

7 min reading time

Published on 06/03/23 - Updated on 16/03/23

Accor Gérard Pélisson

This is how Evelyne Chabrot, who worked for a long time alongside Gérard Pélisson, reacts to the sad news of his death. This entrepreneur left his mark on the hotel industry with the Accor Group alongside his partner, Paul Dubrule. His employees will remember him as a loyal man who supported them and pushed them to excel.

After studying engineering and graduating from Central Paris and MIT, Gérard Pélisson worked in the United States for the giant and pioneer of the computer industry at the time: IBM. He returned to France after discovering a hotel model that inspired him to create the Accor group with Paul Dubrule.

Under the impetus of the two entrepreneurs, the French and European hotel market gradually became structured around chain hotel brands. This success story is based on the alliance of two outstanding personalities with a passion for entrepreneurship: Paul Dubrule and Gérard Pélisson.

The two co-founders were in Paris in November 2019 to pay tribute to Georges Panayotis who, before founding the MKG group, had started his career with Accor.

Georges Panayotis says: "Paul Dubrule and Gérard Pélisson were my two mentors. I was still in contact with them because we were a big family. A family based on respect, openness, responsibility and autonomy. We were pushed not to rest on our laurels.

Gérard Pélisson has left his mark on his era and on the hotel industry."

Evelyne Chabrot has spent her entire career with Gérard Pélisson, after she joined Accor in 1974:

"He is someone who has marked my life and my career. He liked lively and involved people and I learned that he was always by my side during my career even when I didn't know it.

He had a real sensitivity, what I would call a sense of people.

We tend to think that great gentlemen are eternal and he leaves behind many people who owe him a lot."

Marc Thépot has met Gérard Pélisson every two weeks for 30 years. It was he who recruited him into the group and positioned him in 2001 on the Moroccan market. The death of his mentor inspired him to write a text from which we share a few excerpts here:

"Gérard the mischievous, sometimes playful, always fair. He knew how to receive and handle humour so well. We all have in mind his little smile and the perfume of good humour that he knew how to distil around him like a perfume of happiness.

"The Master is not the one who is served, it is the one who serves" he used to say. He also said that as a hotelier-restaurateur, he did "this noble job of grocer with the means of heavy industry".

Gérard is gone. But Gérard is present - now comfortably installed forever in our intimate starry sky - at the side of those who are so dear to us and who - now, with him at their side, will watch over us." Concludes Marc Thépot.

"I was fortunate to have Gérard Pélisson by my side for 20 years when he was called upon to take up a challenge. The Hotel Culinary Arts School was going bankrupt and he saw the possible where all others saw only obstacles. He chose his battles and fought them with great determination and simplicity. Gérard Pélisson knew no fear. In 1998, when I arrived at his side to create the Institut Paul Bocuse, I knew nothing about this field and he told me with confidence "We are going to create a great school".
In 2015, Gérard Pélisson was giving advice to students alongside Paul Bocuse. I asked him to list the ones that were most important to him. The list he gave me perfectly reflects Gérard Pélisson's extremely benevolent state of mind.

  1. A key to your happiness is the happiness of others. Make sure your clients are happy for as long as they are under your roof. Make it your duty, if not your daily pleasure.
  2. Don't just think about what you bring to the company that employs you, but what you can bring to the company.
  3. The worst flaw in a person is arrogance. If you lead a team, those who work for you will be INDEED necessary to your success. Value them.
  4. Never be late for an appointment, especially if it is someone less "important" than you. And if you are meeting someone for the first time, remember that you only have one CHANCE to make a good first impression.
  5. If you fail, you will not be blaming yourself or others."

Pascal Savary spent 38 years working with Gérard Pélisson and remembers

"A rare personality. When you are lucky enough to meet this type of personality, you can only come away enriched. Every time I spent time with him, I came away having learned something. He had an extremely precise reading of things and could bring a lot of clarity to very complex things.

Whatever the job of the group's employees, he treated everyone with a great deal of respect. He and Paul Dubrule were also very happy with the success of everyone. For me, he is one of the people who started the tourism industry with Paul Dubrule, Gibert Trigano and Gérard Brémond. He will continue to contribute from where he is now."

The Accor Group pays tribute to its co-founder "Gérard was an iconic pioneer who, together with co-founder Paul Dubrule, inspired a modern approach to French hospitality at a time when it was poised for fresh ideas. During Les Trente Glorieuses, France’s post-war boom, a new, more modern world emerged, changing the face of travel. Drawing inspiration from the America way of life in the 1960s, Gérard and Paul took a bold approach to bringing their vision of a French-led world class enterprise, to life."

Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Accor, addressed a public tribute : 

"Dear all,

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Accor co-founder, Gérard Pélisson, who died on Monday, March 6, 2023, at the age of 91, surrounded by his loved ones.

Gérard was an iconic trailblazer who, together with co-founder Paul Dubrule, propelled French hospitality into the modern age. During Les Trente Glorieuses, France’s post-war boom, a new, more modern world emerged, changing the face of travel. Drawing inspiration from the America way of life in the 1960s, Gérard and Paul took a bold approach to bringing their vision of a French-led world class enterprise, to life.

Setting aside his engineering background and a budding career at IBM, Gérard seized an opportunity that would lay the foundation for today’s Accor. In 1967, alongside Paul, he established the very first modern, standardized hotel business model through the creation of Novotel in Lille Lesquin. The Novotel model was a truly revolutionary concept which was years ahead of its time. It offered guests a modern bedroom with en-suite bathroom and desk, a grill restaurant, swimming pool and breakfast, all for one rate. Something most hotels of the time did not provide.

An astute businessman, Gérard tenaciously pursued opportunities to expand the Group’s portfolio. For over 40 years, he and Paul exemplified drive and determination in their pursuit of excellence, achieving major milestones including: establishing ibis in 1974, purchasing Mercure in 1975, and Sofitel in 1980; leading the merger with Jacques Borel in 1982; launching Formule 1 in 1985; integrating Lenôtre in 1990 and acquiring Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits et du Tourisme in 1991. These actions would become the cornerstones of our Group.

A passionate and competitive golfer, Gérard shared his love for the sport with his colleagues when he launched ‘Tee Bleu’, a fantastic tournament open to the Group.

Gérard was an entrepreneur par excellence. A true revolutionary of our industry who, together with Paul Dubrule, made Accor a global force to be reckoned with. With courage and determination, they fearlessly challenged conventions, reinvented hospitality, and forever altered the industry’s trajectory, making a global impact. Gérard’s legacy lives on at Accor and we will all endeavor to embrace his daring spirit, mirroring his pursuit of excellence and passion for business. His vision and heart will forever be with us!

On behalf of Accor, I wish to express our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones, in particular Gilles Pélisson, his nephew, who worked for 17 years within the Group, including 5 years at its head.

Our thoughts are with you.

Sébastien Bazin"

Accor

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