Albert Frère, joint owner of Château Cheval Blanc, has passed away aged 92. The famously shy Belgian, who over his lifetime amassed a personal fortune into the billions, overcame the death of his father at a young age to become Belgians richest man and becoming an incredibly influential figure in sectors as diverse as telecoms, wine, media and traditional industry.

Son of an, albeit wealthy, nail dealer; Albert took over the family business age just 17. By 30 he was making smart investments in steel factories and by his mid-forties he practically controlled the whole industry in the Charleroi region of Belgium.

A life-time lover of golf, gastronomy and wine, in 1998 Albert became joint owner of the prestigious Château Cheval Blanc with friend and French billionaire Bernard Arnault. Pierre Lurton, Director of Cheval Blanc told of how he loved to spend time at the Château, not only hosting his daughter’s wedding there but often present over harvest and was ‘a driving force behind the development of a white wine at Cheval-Blanc.’

Despite his status, having being made Baron by Belgian King Albert II in 2002 and rubbing shoulders with the great and good, friends tell of his joy for the simple pleasures in life and how he encapsulated the spirit of bon vivant.

Gemma Wood