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Serge Dassault stands on the tarmac at the military airport of Villacoublay outside Paris in this March 2, 2012, file photo.THOMAS SAMSON/afp/getty

Serge Dassault, the billionaire businessman and politician who inherited an aviation empire from his First World War aircraft-designer father, has died. He was 93.

He succumbed Monday to heart failure in his company office just off the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, a spokeswoman for Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault said. He was chairman.

One of two sons born to aviation legend Marcel Dassault and his wife, Madeleine Minckes, Serge forged a name as a fierce guardian of the family’s businesses and an outspoken conservative politician.

Although Mr. Dassault expanded the family’s business interests into real estate, auction houses and media, he had to contend with critical comparisons to his powerful father. Marcel founded the family’s main company, Paris-based aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation, maker of the Rafale military plane and the Falcon corporate jet.

Mr. Dassault was especially known for the development of France’s Mirage jet fighters, as well as for equipping the French Air Force and other militaries through global sales.

“France has lost a man who dedicated his life to developing a jewel of French industry,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement.

The Dassaults successfully rebuffed attempts by French president François Mitterrand to nationalize the company in the 1980s. Similarly, Serge had to battle restructuring attempts by then-president Jacques Chirac in the mid-1990s.

Mr. Dassault was born Serge Bloch in Paris on April 4, 1925. His father invented a type of propeller used by the French army during the First World War. After starting his own eponymous aircraft manufacturer in 1936, Marcel was well-positioned to supply aircraft to the military after the outbreak of the Second World War.

During the war, the Bloch family, which was of Jewish heritage, was arrested by the Gestapo and stripped of its property. In 1944, Marcel was deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp and held as a political hostage. He was released in April, 1945, when the camp was liberated.

After his release, he changed the family name to Dassault. Derived from the word for “assault” in French, it was also the alias used by Marcel’s brother, general Paul Bloch, who fought in the French resistance. In 1950, Marcel converted to Catholicism.

Serge joined the family business in 1951 after graduating from France’s prestigious engineering school, École Polytechnique and the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace.

Even though Serge distinguished himself as a student, his father had no interest in sharing power. He distanced Serge by making him head of Dassault Electronique, a branch of the family business. Only after Marcel’s death in 1986, at the age of 94, did Serge take over as chief executive of Dassault Groupe.

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Serge Dassault poses in front of a Rafale before the 43rd Le Bourget airshow near Paris in this June 11, 1999, file photo.FREDERICK FLORIN/afp/getty

“It’s first and foremost a great industrialist who is gone,” said Manuel Valls, former prime minister, in a statement. “He profoundly modernized the Dassault company.”

In March, 2004, Serge bought Le Groupe Figaro, publisher of one of France’s most widely read newspapers. The company also owns the Paris-based auction house Artcurial and wine estates in Bordeaux. Serge’s fortune is worth US$27.3-billion ($35.15-billion), making him the world’s 28th-wealthiest man, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“We won’t see any more big bosses like him: determined, very endearing, a little cunning, patriotic,” Laurence Parisot, former head of business lobby Medef, said in a tweet. “He not only made his father’s work prosperous but opened his group to modernity.”

Serge also followed his father’s lead into politics, though Marcel, who twice served on France’s National Assembly, never campaigned and rarely attended Assembly sessions.

A member of the conservative Union for a Popular Movement party, he was elected mayor of the Paris suburb of Corbeil-Essonnes in 1995, finally ousting the town’s communist mayor after three failed attempts. In 2004, he became a UMP senator. A champion of conservative economic policies, he attacked the French tax system as punishing to entrepreneurs.

In November, 2012, he raised ire among many French citizens when he declared President François Hollande’s bill to allow gay marriage “an enormous danger to the nation.”

Both his business and political careers were tainted by graft allegations.

In 1998, a Belgian court gave him a two-year suspended prison sentence for bribing politicians to win defence contracts. In June, 2009, he was stripped of his mayoral position when a civil court found him guilty of making cash payments to voters. In an interview with news website Lepoint.fr, Serge called the ruling “scandalous” and politically motivated.

Serge was also fighting a 2017 tax fraud conviction and €2-million ($3-million) fine over millions of euros he had kept outside of France. His defence lawyers said the financial arrangements were set up by Marcel during the 1950s. An appeals court hearing in the case was scheduled for next week.

Serge was married to Nicole Raffel. They had three sons, Laurent, Thierry and Olivier, and a daughter, Marie-Hélène.

Former conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy said in a tweet that France lost a great industrialist and the aviation world a pioneer. “Me, I simply lose a friend,” Mr. Sarkozy said.

With a file from The Associated Press

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