TEAM SPIRIT: Jean-François Palus, second-in-command at French luxury group Kering since 2008, would most certainly applaud this fashion trend: Rugby shirts made a minor comeback during the recent men’s fashion weeks for spring 2024.
Palus was captain of his university rugby team until 1995, and the sport seems to have shaped him as a person, and a business leader, an audience in Paris heard Thursday night as the executive was decorated with an Ordre national du Mérite, a French honorific for distinguished civil achievements.
Serge Weinberg, chief executive officer of Kering’s precursor PPR until 2005, did the honors, pinning the vivid blue medallion on Palus’ left lapel in front of a crowd that included Kering chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault, sustainability executive Marie-Claire Daveau, Kering Beauté chief Raffaella Cornaggia, Bottega Veneta CEO Bartolomeo Rongone and Pascal Morand, executive president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode.
Over 32 years working for the Pinault family, initially with its timber business, later with its Fnac and Conforama retail chains, Palus would settle into mostly financial roles at the group level, also overseeing mergers and acquisitions for several years.
Weinberg suggested rugby likely impacted Palus’ negotiating technique, “and the often manly way in which you approach certain subjects or express certain opinions.”
“You are there, you, with your convictions — sincere, loyal, courageous,” he said, also jesting that Palus had to balance his passion for sports with the need to wear slightly fitted Brioni suits for business.
A soft-spoken, low-key executive who chose a scruffy, mid-laugh photo of himself for Kering’s corporate website, Palus said he insisted on the conglomerate’s Left Bank headquarters to receive the honor “to clearly mark what it represents in my eyes: Recognition shared with group employees.
“In rugby, the star is the team,” he explained. “It imposes a sense of community and solidarity.”
Pinault was the first to congratulate Palus, kissing him on both cheeks. Then guests repaired to the garden for Champagne and nibbles, enjoying the breezy summer evening.
A graduate of French business school HEC, Palus started his career with Arthur Andersen as an auditor and financial adviser.
He became group chief financial officer in 2005 before assuming his current role of group managing director. In that capacity, he contributes to the development of the group’s strategy, manages its implementation and ensures optimal operational efficiency.
In addition, Palus been a member of Kering’s board since 2009.