After earning a PhD in computer science at the University of Montpellier, he began working for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, from which he left to buy a scaffolding company in France in 1985. This acquisition morphed into the present-day Groupe Altrad , employer of over 7,000 people, and involved in the scaffolding and cement-mixing industries. Altrad remains chairman of his namesake company, as well as the rugby club Montpellier Hérault Rugby. He has also penned three acclaimed novels. He is unsure of his day of birth, so he recently "picked a date from a hat" in order to celebrate one.