Electrical products distributor Sonepar announced this week that the company’s founder and Honorary Chairman, Henri Coisne, passed away overnight Dec. 15-16 at the age of 99, surrounded by his family in France.
Coisne founded Paris-based Sonepar in 1969. Today, it is present in over 40 countries with 45,000 employees and ranked No. 2 on MDM’s 2022 Top Electrical Distributors list with $11.0 billion in 2021 revenue.
“Beyond being a ‘great captain of industry,’ it was his simplicity, his entrepreneurial spirit, and his integrity that will have marked his life,” Sonepar said in a statement. “Henri, following a family lead, recognized very early the potential of the electrical distribution industry. In 1969, he founded Sonepar that today has become the world’s leading electrical distributor, present in over 40 countries with 45,000 associates.
Coisne became Sonepar’s Chairman of the Board in 1976, resigned four years later amid health issues and returned in 1981 as Chairman of the Supervisory Board while staying involved with the company’s operational management. The company noted that, in 1982, Coisne steered Sonepar’s first acquisition outside of France. He gradually stepped back from the business in the mid-1990s, and in 1998, his daughter, Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette, took over company leadership.
“Our father was a pioneer who was an inspiration to all of us. He was always ambitious and driven by an entrepreneurial spirit which will continue to guide the group in the future,” said Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette, Coisne’s daughter and Sonepar Chairman. “He was fair and good man. As a family business, he was obsessed with the long term and even if he no longer held an operational role, he always remained fully up to date with all the developments in the group. As he would often say, what counts is what lasts. Over 50 years later, Sonepar’s independence remains a key strength to support the group’s strategy of sustainable, long-term growth, powered by the commitments of its family shareholders.”
Coisne served as Honorary Chairman and member of Sonepar’s Supervisory Board from 1998 to 2002 before becoming a Board member from 2002 to 2010. He was Honorary Chairman of the Sonepar Corporate Board since 2010.
“Sonepar shares the grief of his children, Henri, Martine, Sylvie, Marie-Christine and Laurence, their grandchildren, and their great grandchildren,” the company siad.