Family Business management


Name of the provider / Family business 

Association familiale Mulliez (AFM) 

Professional sector and company size 

Mass distribution/retail, >5000 employees

Need/problems/challenge addressed 

Emphasis on family unity, culture, values, shared vision and mission. 



Link to more information  

The Mulliez Family Association (AFM) is one of France’s wealthiest and most secretive families. Over the course of almost seventy years and across multiple generations, they have diligently safeguarded themselves from public scrutiny and interest, adhering to their guiding principle: “Silence does good, good does not make noise.” Owning large-scale, thriving retail brands, this extensive family has often been described as a “sect” due to their cultivation of secrecy.

Despite the secrecy, Mulliez family products have permeated our daily lives. Auchan, Leroy Merlin, Boulanger, Decathlon, Pimkie – a substantial portion of what the French consume belongs to the Mulliez dynasty. Boasting around 130 brands or stores, 700,000 employees, and an annual combined revenue of nearly 100 billion euros, the Mulliez journey embodies both an extraordinary success story and a skilfully executed succession strategy. In certain branches, five generations have already taken the reins. By defying the commonly perceived curse of family capitalism – “the first generation creates, the second manages, the third destroys” – the Mulliez family’s triumph lies in a distinctive model that preserves and strengthens their family ties.

The foundation of the Mulliez system is the exceptional entrepreneurial spirit fostered in younger generations. To become a part of the association, specific requirements must be fulfilled: being a direct family member or connected through marriage, being at least 21 years old, and applying to the management council while adhering to the association’s entry and exit conditions. Merely inheriting wealth does not guarantee entry into AFM; aspiring members must apply and undergo an initiation rite.

Under the mentorship of Antoine Mayaud, the family’s HR manager, 22-year-olds undergo a year-long training program that tackles reading balance sheets and understanding legal principles, but most importantly, it aims to instil a passion for entrepreneurship. A Mulliez trainee is assessed based on their ability to create a business, irrespective of its ultimate success. The training also imparts valuable lessons on how a Mulliez should handle money. The family prioritizes prudence over extravagance, with only 1% of the companies’ value distributed annually as dividends, while the rest is reinvested in the businesses. Once the young members complete their training, they are confirmed as associates at the general assembly.

Every four years in May, the Mulliez Family Association convenes for the election of the management council. To become a candidate, one must be endorsed by four family shareholders who have served as administrators of a company held by the association for four years, and they cannot be administrators themselves. The 600 Mulliez Family Association associates gather to vote for the seven cousins entrusted with managing the group’s interests. The electoral process is well-organized, with candidates submitting their CVs, cover letters, and manifestos to the members about a month before the election. To participate in the election, individuals must be part of the family and undergo the induction seminar. On the voting day, each candidate takes the floor, and the attendees cast their secret ballots. In the Mulliez family, every position is earned through merit, and entitlement to a seat is non-existent, as emphasized by Gérard Mulliez.