of the Grand Cross of the French Legion of Honor
to Dr Jacques Servier
Founding President of Servier
Élysée Palace – Tuesday 7 July 2009
Yours is a story rich in lessons in the great French tradition. You have lived through the century—although one wouldn’t think it—and are still fully committed to tackling the new challenges of our times.
I remember our first encounter in 1983. That’s when I first saw that you are an enthusiast. Unreasonable to think so at the time, you already believed that I would become President of the Republic. Jacques Servier, you are incorrigible!
You are an extraordinary person. Your asceticism and sobriety command the respect of everyone.
But I do not wish to sketch your portrait as if from afar—I know you too well for that. Rather, I would prefer to try and express your true self.
First and foremost, you are a doctor and a man of health care and research. You are a doctor of both medicine and pharmacy. This was a rare achievement in 1950 and remains so today.
You were trained in the French school of medicine, the school that gave us Pasteur and many Nobel Prize winners of whom our country is proud. I say here before Roselyne Bachelot [Minister of Health, Youth, and Sports] that the French school of medicine—the one she believes in—is a school of excellence. Sometimes I hear people oppose health care and research. This is to forget where our country’s medicine comes from; to overlook the teaching heritage of Jean Bernard, Jean Hamburger, and others; and it is to ignore that health improvements result from innovations in research and the progress that follows.
You have given your name to a research group, and are passionately committed to this.
You have made your group a foundation. Raymond and I have played a part in this. Thanks to this status, all the profits of your group are reinvested in research. No dividends are paid. All Servier medicines are the result of your group’s research and, together with your 20 000 colleagues, you have run your company with lasting success year after year. As a doctor, Jacques, you have a deeply human conception of your métier. All your life you have striven to heal and cure, to provide doctors and their patients with effective medicines.
Within your group, you pay special attention to your colleagues and their talents. You were quick to support the role of women at all levels of management. In making Servier a foundation, you were looking to safeguard the men and women in your employ rather than attract investment capital. You remind us that the purpose of capital is to further the plans we all have. People should not be subject to the whims of capitalism, much less so of speculation.
France has few entrepreneurs like you, Jacques. From its origins as a family-run pharmacy in Orléans with 9 employees in 1948 to the present, Servier has grown remarkably. In 1954, the business moved to Neuilly and Servier today is to be found in 150 countries, with a very strong presence in Russia, China, and Eastern Europe. Twenty-five percent of the company’s turnover of 4 billion euros is reinvested in research and development.
You have never stopped taking risks. I know that your move from Orléans to Neuilly was, to use your own words, the start of international expansion.
As an entrepreneur, you have often been critical of French bureaucracy. You have criticized the proliferation of measures, standards, and structures, and you were right.
Jacques, you are a patriot. Thanks to you, our country boasts a world-class pharmaceutical industry, something that fewer than ten or so countries worldwide can claim.
And you are a loyal man. Someone whose friendship can be counted on. You are a courageous man and a visionary. The nation is grateful for what you have done. You are a living testament to Servier medicines because, frankly, age has had absolutely no effect on you. I would even say, Jacques, that your stylishness makes you look younger. It is extremely annoying!
I hope that each one of you has understood that I am about to decorate a great Frenchman in the name of the French Republic.