“There is an appointed time for everything and a time for every affair under the heavens…
A time to rend, and a time to sew, a time to be silent, and a time to speak....”
After the investigating judge sitting in Evry banned me from working for Alcatel Alsthom on March 10, 1995, my lawyer at the time said to the press that chairman Suard would be finished if the judicial restraints imposed upon him were maintained. That statement caused panic among the senior managers of the company's public relations department. Nevertheless, it was a premonition that proved to be correct, because behind the scenes maneuvering, of which I did not realize the depth or seriousness at the time, had commenced long before to remove me as chairman of Alcatel Alsthom. By taking advantage of the opportunities created by the judicial proceedings against me, the individuals behind the machinations were able to accomplish their goal. The judicial restraints were maintained and the way was cleared for a new chairman to be appointed.
That’s how I was rendered powerless overnight. The event would have remained without importance if it had only concerned me personally. But as subsequent developments at Alcatel Alsthom would show, that day marked the end of great ambitions for the company—not only those that I had for it, but those which I shared with many in the group. If I resolved to take up a pen to write this book, it was on the advice and insistence of all who, along with me, believed in this great project and who, stunned by subsequent developments, pressed me to tell this story in order that so many hopes and efforts would not be completely forgotten.
That task clearly surpasses the capabilities of one person. For the 90th anniversary of the Compagnie Générale d’Electricité, which would later become Alcatel Alsthom, we had requested a team of academics to put together the history of the group. That magnificent work covers the company's history up to 1990. The most I can do here is to tell my story, which is necessarily incomplete and perhaps biased, despite all the efforts I have made to report honestly the exciting years which I spent in service to the group. I hope, in this way, to contribute a little additional information in case someone should decide, at some later date, to continue Alcatel's history. In the meantime, perhaps I will, very imperfectly, try to respond to the wishes of those who, along with me, believed in a brilliant future for Alcatel Alsthom.
Because that was indeed our goal. Strengthened by the long history of the group, we had wanted to raise its stature and therefore give it an international dimension. Our predecessors had built a solid position for the company on the French market. But the world market was going to open up and it would be necessary, without rejecting the past, to adapt to the new circumstances. In turning our vision outside of France, my close associates and I focused our efforts on new markets. Because of that, we were less present in France or, at any rate, less available to cultivate the intricate network of relations which was essential to being recognized and supported in the small world of Parisian business relationships—a microcosm which was, without question, not very open to outsiders in the 1980’s.
This book has no other ambition than to explain my hopes for Alcatel Alsthom during a period in its history when the world was opening up internationally and the group was able to come into its own and finally dominate. I must recount, as well, my interpretation of the events that interrupted this magnificent adventure, to the astonishment of many even to this day. But the reader will understand that, with respect to this subject, I am still somewhat constrained inasmuch as the judicial proceedings of the Alcatel matter are still underway. Only later (hopefully at the end of those proceedings) will it be possible to give my complete interpretation. Perhaps I will leave my heirs an addendum to this narrative which they can publish when the time comes.