Clément Fayat was a Corrézien through and through. Born on 24 January 1932 into a modest family – he liked to recall how he often had to share apples and chestnuts with the pigs his parents farmed. He learned his first skills from his father, Paul Fayat, who worked as a mason. This rigorous education emphasized the value of work and doing things well. Keen to gain his independence as quickly as possible, he left school very early, becoming an apprentice at the age of 15 at the hydropower dam site on the Dordogne River in Chastang, Corrèze. After completing his eighteen months of military service, he moved to Libourne, and it was in this quiet town, on the outskirts of Bordeaux, that he met his future wife, Germaine. Here, he also took the first steps to build the group that bears his name, after working in a local civil engineering company, Vincent.
Though at the helm of an empire stretching across five continents, Clément Fayat remained strongly attached to his rural roots – “the dirt is still stuck to my shoes”, he would happily say. The family home in Libourne now houses the Espace Germaine Fayat – a tribute to his wife, who passed away in 2013 – a reception space adjoining the head office of the first company he founded in 1957: Fayat Entreprise TP. His love for the land also motivated him to acquire a prestigious vineyard, Château La Dominique (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé) in 1969. This bold move was certainly surprising for many in such a renowned wine-growing area, but one that he continued to take pride in throughout his life. Today also the owner of Château Clément-Pichon (Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois Supérieur) and Château Fayat (Pomerol), he structured the Group’s wine business under the name Vignobles Clément Fayat, regularly acclaimed by international industry critics and the source of ever-growing wine tourism activity. Although he was always very present for his teams, he would never leave his residence for long, located in the heart of the Médoc region.
In 1957, the Fayat Group adventure began, and naturally it was in the civil engineering sector. Clément Fayat acquired his first digger and created Société Nouvelle de Terrassement (SNT) with the company Vincent, which still employed him at the time. He was only 25 years old, but he already had ten years of solid professional experience. From then on, he continued to strengthen and extend the scope of his activities, first in France, then internationally. Fayat now comprises seven major business activities: civil works, foundations, building, metal, energy services, pressure vessels and road equipment. Based on this two-pronged portfolio of industry and construction – including real estate development and public-private partnership operations – he built a balanced, sustainable empire.
The first company that Clément Fayat acquired was his employer company Vincent (civil engineering), the foundation stone for the Group’s construction activity. Then, in 1969, the Group took its initial steps into industry by acquiring subsidiary Le Réservoir (pressure vessels). 1977 marked the beginning of a new era of diversification, with the purchase of Castel & Fromaget (metal), which would become France’s most modern metal framework manufacturer by 1985. The road equipment activities, today Fayat’s biggest source of export revenue, began in 1987, with the acquisition of French company Ermont, and in 1988 of Italian company Marini, both designers and producers of asphalt.
“The family is growing. And I feel the Fayat spirit growing with it.” Visionary, rigorous, demanding, Clément Fayat nourished his teams’ sense of loyalty and expected total commitment from them. He always pursued a single objective: to be the best. The number one. To do so, he never hesitated to hand over control when necessary to those with the skills that he himself lacked: once given, his trust was, if not unshakeable, at least firmly anchored.
A new milestone was undeniably reached in 1994, with the purchase of Ile-de-France group Genest: this move doubled the Group’s size, while adding another activity, industrial electricity. That same year, special foundations activities were also incorporated into the Group (Sefi and Franki).
With the acquisitions of Bec Frères in 2002, Bomag in 2004 and Razel in 2008, the Group was once again propelled into brand new areas: earthworks, civil engineering and construction expertise via Bec Frères; Bomag, the German brand, world leader in road equipment design and production, adding subsidiaries across five continents, and the Group’s first steps onto the African continent with Razel. Some of the most recent acquisitions, both national and international, include Cari (construction) in 2010, Terex (acquisition of production lines in the United States and road equipment activities in Brazil) in 2013, Dynapac (strengthened strategic position in the global road equipment market) in 2017, Fouchard (climate engineering) and Bardon (construction) in 2019, and lastly Dulevo (sweeping solutions) and NXO (integration and management solutions for digital corporate flows) in 2021. These operations have marked a constant process of external growth, undertaken alongside Fayat’s internal development. In under forty years, the Group had established itself as far as the borders of China. The modest Corrèze native, who launched his business with a single digger, entered the year 2000 with an internationally structured company, making France’s number one independent group in construction the global number one in this area. This group is now present in 170 countries, through its 231 subsidiaries. Such achievements earned the admiration of all, as attested to by the many tributes now paid to Clément Fayat by employees, entrepreneurs and public figures. This modest man used to say, “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,” proof of the passion that he held all his life and pushed him to always aim higher.
In 2012, the year of his 80th birthday, Clément Fayat was awarded the rank of Commander in the Order of the Legion of Honour, presented by Alain Juppé, then Mayor of Bordeaux. His admirable career was backed by a solid character, based around three values: audacity, of course, commitment, even more so, and autonomy as well, which he always knew how to give to his companies, establishing trust-based working relationships. In this way, he was able to grow and consolidate his rich professional family, step by step, increasing and anchoring his legitimacy on the international stage each day. The finest illustration of his success is measured by the constantly growing number of major projects bearing the Fayat name around the world.
The famous yellow diamond with two intersecting capital Fs has become an essential feature of the international landscape. Having worked with the greatest architects, Clément Fayat has left behind an impressive array of prestigious achievements, many of which received internationally reputed prizes, as a legacy to his sons, his employees and the citizens of the world.
Currently involved in the huge Grand Paris project as a key actor, Fayat has also worked on the Canopy of Les Halles, Musée du Quai Branly, and Terminal 2E of Charles de Gaulle International airport. In its historic homeland in Aquitaine and even more so in Bordeaux, many real estate programmes and development projects bear its signature, like the iconic Atlantic Matmut Stadium. There have been countless projects in France, in both public and private sectors. Examples include the Manufacture de la Mode in Paris, Campus des Métiers in Nice, Valenciennes Aquatic Centre, Narbonne Arena, public lighting on Boulevard Périphérique Nord in Lyon, smart intersection management in Biarritz and piloting the Pôle d’Échange Multimodal in Rennes, to name just a few. On the international scene, we should mention the many sanitation and airport projects in Africa, both finalised and in progress, the famous Tabellout Dam in Algeria, the Three Basin Viaduct in Réunion Island, the Fréjus tunnel between France and Italy, the ACTe Memorial in Guadeloupe.
Industrial activity represents the Group’s spearhead for international development. It is particularly focused on design, production and commercialisation of road-building equipment: asphalt plants, feeders, finishers, asphalt rollers, road maintenance equipment, pavers, recyclers and stabilisers, soil compactors, and sweeping solutions by Fayat are used in many road construction and renovation projects across five continents. As an example, around 136 compactors designed by the Group worked in an impressive, perfectly orchestrated ballet on the Istanbul international airport project.
24 production sites of road equipment are spread across Europe, Asia, and the Americas – USA, Brazil, China, India, Turkey, Germany, Sweden, UK, Netherland, Italy, France –, benefiting Research & Development departments creating the environmentally responsible and digital technologies of tomorrow.
In 2020, Clément Fayat joined forces with his two sons, Jean-Claude and Laurent, to announce the creation of a foundation in his name. In line with the values promoted by the Group and its directors for over sixty years, the Clément Fayat Foundation (shareholder foundation with official charitable status) aims to help ensure the Group’s future stability and preserve its independence, while contributing to giving meaning to its employees’ daily work. Its three missions fit perfectly into the Group’s history and values: fighting neurodegenerative diseases and contributing to medical research; training individuals – specifically the most disadvantaged – who wish to work in the construction and civil engineering sector and helping people aiming to reconvert to another sector; and lastly, restoring and renovating historic monuments. It represents a final, elegant way to pass on the torch and inspire future generations
“A new horizon is opening up before us, I can feel it. And I have faith, as these two men have these values and the desire to succeed in their DNA. It’s time for major projects. For history to continue. And for innovative developments,” declared Clément Fayat, shortly before retiring from the company.
These words sum up the beautiful ending to his life’s signature work, as well as the pride of this ever-modest man. As a father, it was a moving tribute to his two sons, ready to take the reins and continue what he had built for over sixty years.