Jean-Michel Grunberg, president and CEO of la Grande Récré, can tell him thank you. Without Michel Ohayon, he would have lost control of the brand of toys built by his father. In early October, the chairman of Financière immobilière bordelaise (FIB) has been involved with the commercial Court of Paris to inject 30 million euros to ensure the continuation plan supported by the CEO of the chain. What to put afloat the distributor and its hundreds of shops, in exchange for a third of the capital. A percentage that could rise to 95% if the chairman of the FIB decides.

And he just missed that Michel Ohayon does a double hit the following week, with 50 stores French of the american Toys “R” Us. But the commercial court has this time preferred a competing bid. Disappointed, the man of business in bordeaux ? “At the stroke yes, and then five minutes after I was moved on to something else, the money that I was planning to put on Toys “R” Us will feed into other projects,” says-t it.

An estimated fortune of 750 million euros

It is like that Michel Ohayon, a hopeless optimist who only knows one direction : forward, and if possible at full speed. What has so far been fairly successful : at the age of 56, our man is at the head of a small empire in real estate commercial weighing two billion euros ! An empire which radiates over two dozen cities in France, but also Belgium, Great Britain, Italy, the netherlands, and Canada. In his hands, a few nuggets including hotels, Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem and Versailles, the Grand Hotel of Bordeaux, and twenty stores, Galeries Lafayette in area, which it operates under licence from the beginning of the year. This makes it the 125th largest fortune of France, according to the ranking of the weekly Challenges, with a wealth estimated at 750 million euros.

Michel Ohayon hope to be able to buy other companies to create the number one French of the toy.


An empire, especially, that he built with his own hands, deal after deal. The story of this entrepreneur born in Casablanca, Morocco, parents, vendors of the tissues, is that of a true self-made man to the French. In 1984, after a master of economic science, the young Ohayon, at the age of 22 years, opened a first clothing store in the franchise Daniel Hechter. The man is a salesman born – 15 years of age, he sold them already jackets from army surplus to his comrades, the shop does not take long to take off. This allows him to quickly open another, and then yet another. At just 27 years old, Michel Ohayon has 15 stores and is to work of 150 employees.

Ambitions overflowing

“I had no personal fortune, but I had understood that the system of the franchise allowed me to present the forecast to the bankers, who, reassured, accepted to lend me the money,” says he, with his speed gun. It also includes that there is much more to gain to invest in the stone. Bordeaux is still a sleeping beauty, and the prices are accessible. His method : find a building with potential, negotiate the price, go out and convince a string of clothes to come and install a store, and then once the contract is in hand to go to borrow of the bankers reassured by the presence of a tenant to the kidneys strong. “It smiled at me, so I repeated several times the operation”, explains the businessman. He still holds a third of the rue Porte-Dijeaux, where he bought his first building. The street became pedestrian, is today one of the most important shopping of the city.

Quickly, the capital of the gironde department becomes much too narrow for the ambition flowing from this father of four children. It layer then its development model from bordeaux to apply it to a twenty cities of the province. “This is an entrepreneur who likes to take risks, with a rare ability to imagine a whole estate, and then make it profitable,” said architect Michel Pétuaud-Pond, who has assisted on many projects.

so far, the trajectory of the rocket Ohayon has not always been straight. At the end of the 90s, the commercial real estate no longer has the wind in its sails “The banks were overshadowed by the start-up and refused to finance my operations, and then there was the bursting of the internet bubble, I looked at the bankers make their boxes telling me that I had been right of me stand on your head,” says t-it.

more Importantly, this does not prevent him to achieve one of his major works, The Grand Hotel de Bordeaux, which was completed to make it a truly noticeable in the city that saw him grow up. In 1999, when he bought the candle, the building is partly abandoned, and some floors are domainers. Not anything to scare our man who already had in mind a very precise idea of what he wants. It starts by buying the buildings adjacent to the hotel and to multiply the area by six, and invests no less than € 60 million in work. “It was an extremely ambitious project and complicated, because the buildings of France, we have imposed to keep the facades, load-bearing walls and floors, and Michel had each day a new idea that I had to find a solution,” recalls the architect Michel Pétuaud Pond.

The work must even a time stop, because an archaeological site is discovered by digging in the parking lot. But in 2007, it is a palace foil of 22 000 square meters which is opened in front of the family Ohayon at large. On this gigantic project, which has helped to give a shine back to the city Alain Juppé, the business man has not made his greatest financial transaction, but it has gained visibility and respectability.

meanwhile, this lover of Chagall and the school of Paris became a millionaire. In 2004, the british group Grosvenor, a real estate company owned by the Duke of Westminster and his family – he has redeemed 25% of its real estate portfolio, which makes it immediately enter in the ranking of the largest fortunes in france. “It was a good market opportunity and I was proud that such a group is interested in my locations”, he comments.

high ambitions for La Grande Récré

today, provides Michel Ohayon, these are not the walls of The Large Recess that interest them, as some professionals suggest, but to restore its luster to the brand. It will be hard to do : the distributor has not been able to reinvent itself to cope with the boom of e-commerce, and the arrival of the giant Amazon, and has lost a lot of money in developing all-round in Europe. The chain now refocused on France, and let go of its stores, deficit can it bounce back ? For the businessman, this is not the shadow of a doubt : “La Grande Récré remains number one in terms of spontaneous awareness, with locations exceptional in the city centre”.

And to return the barge, Michel Ohayon has already in mind a new concept of boutique. “For people on the move, It is necessary to sell them the dream, so we will open stores from 4000 to 10 000 square meters, with centres of indoor entertainment for children up to 12 years, spanning 400 square meters, with spaces of restoration”. Four or five of these “flagships” should spread out in the largest French cities as early as 2019, with a network of 50 stores, at the rate of 15 openings per year.

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“One can even imagine of shops in the outskirts of cities with outdoor parks to offer activities such as canopy tours !”, an enthusiastic business man. The existing fleet will be modernized, with a new concept making it great for demonstrations. Big ambitions for La Grande Récré, which could only be a beginning. The businessman is sure, the industry will continue to consolidate, and other chains will be put on sale. He will then take the opportunity to extend his new empire of the toy.


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