Syrian-origin Mohed Altrad, founder and CEO of Altrad Group, has been named EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2015. Mohed was picked from among the 65 country winners vying for the title.
Every year accounting and consulting firm EY organises the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year Award’. The competition is run in more than 60 countries, and recognises entrepreneurs that have inspired others with their vision, leadership and excellents achievements. Following the national awards EY also hosts a global version, dubbed the ‘World Entrepreneur of the Year Award’, which brings all 65 national winners together to unveil the overall annual winner.
Following a nerve-wracking battle, held this year in the mondaine French state of Monaco, Mohed Altrad was unveiled as the global winner. His mother died shortly after his birth, and he was raised by his grandmother who forbade him from going to school. Altrad went nonetheless. He spied on what was going on in the classroom through a hole in the wall, until a teacher allowed him to sit in on lessons. Later, as he became the best in his class, he went to study in Raqqa, Syria. From there, he aged 17 earned a scholarship in France and went on to obtain a PhD in Computer Science.
Altrad worked for large companies for about 15 years, but at heart he had always been an entrepreneur. After starting and selling a business that manufactured portable computers, Mohed came across a nearly bankrupt scaffolding business while on holiday in the south of France. In 1985, without any knowledge of the industry, he and a partner purchased the company, which became the basis of Altrad Group. Mohed continued to grow the business by acquiring distressed companies and consolidating across Europe. Today, Altrad Group is a world-leading maker of cement mixers and Europe’s leading maker of scaffolding and wheelbarrows. The firm generates $960 million in sales and employs nearly 7,000 people throughout the world.
“This year it was a tough but ultimately unanimous decision. Mohed has built a hugely successful, fast-growing international business having overcome a humble and very challenging upbringing. He was forbidden from going to school as a child, moved to France to set up a new life and is now one of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs. The judges were impressed by his ability to build and sustain growth over 30 years and by his humility and character”, says Rebecca MacDonald, Chair of the World Entrepreneur Of The Year judging panel.
Mark Weinberger, Global CEO of EY, adds: “Entrepreneurs are a crucial engine of economic recovery and job growth. Mohed is a truly inspiring World Entrepreneur Of The Year winner. He demonstrates the tenacity and sense of purpose that so many of our 64 other country winners possess and which helps them build a better working world.”
In a reaction to the recognition Altrad says he is “honoured to receive the prestigious award”, adding that he wants to dedicate the award to “everyone, as the objective of life is to help humanity.”