On this day in 1986 Georges Besse, the 58-year-old CEO of French automaker Renault, was gunned down just steps from his Paris home. Besse had become head of the company in 1985 when it was not profitable. Under Besse’s aggressive actions Renault reported gains for the first time in years, just two months before Besse was shot. In addition, Besse invested heavily in AMC, of which Renault was a major stockholder. While many executives saw AMC as worthless, as it too was losing money at the time, Besse’s investment into the company put it, specifically Jeep, on track to become one of the most profitable brands in North America at the time.
The quick turnaround of Renault was not without significant loss for the French people. To bring a profit to the car company Besse ordered the closing of several plants and laid off some 21,000 workers across the country. The job loss upset thousands of people across France, and it seems now to have led to the CEO’s death. As Besse was exiting his chauffeur-driven car outside his home in Paris’ 14th Arrondissement, he was gunned down, as witnessed by one of his daughters.
It was three months later when flyers from the French militant anarchist group Action Directe arrived in the mail, claiming responsibility for the murder in retaliation for the massive layoffs. Not long after two women affiliated with the group, Nathalie Menigon and Joelle Aubron, were arrested and tried. During the trial the group and the women claimed they were not involved in any way. In March 1987 they were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.