François de Grossouvre (29 March 1918 – 7 April 1994) was a French politician charged in 1981 by newly elected president François Mitterrand with overseeing national security and other sensitive matters, in particular those concerning Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Gabon, the Persian Gulf countries, Pakistan and the two Koreas. He was also in charge of the French branch of Gladio, NATO's stay-behind paramilitary secret armies during the Cold War.
He was found dead with gunshot wounds at the Élysée Palace, the French President's official residence. The official verdict was suicide.
François de Grossouvre was born in an aristocratic family, the descendant of Jean-François Durand, lord of Grossouvre (1735–1832). His father, a banker, died in 1923 in Beirut where he resided. François de Grossouvre would keep affective ties to Lebanon thereafter. He then studied with the Jesuits in France and studied medicine.
During World War II, François de Grossouvre was posted as auxiliary physician in a regiment of Moroccan tirailleurs, and then joined the ski troops in the Vercors region. There he met Captain Bousquet, who created one of the first units of the Organisation de résistance de l'armée (ORA). He then returned to Lyon, where he received his doctorate in 1942. Afterward, he became doctor of the 11th regiment of Cuirassiers, headed by Colonel Lormeau.
Grossouvre then became a member of Joseph Darnand's Service d'ordre légionnaire (SOL), a Vichyist militia. He left it in 1943 to fight in the Vercors, joining the Maquis of the Chartreuse, near Grenoble (code-name "Clober"). After the Liberation, it was found that he had in fact infiltrated the SOL on behalf of ORA.
Grossouvre was then recruited in 1950 by the French SDECE intelligence agency to replace Gilbert Union, official in Lyon and who had worked with the military agency BCRA, and became leader of Arc-en-Ciel, the regional branch of Gladio (Lyon region), NATO's stay-behind anti-communist organizations during the Cold War, under the code-name "Monsieur Leduc". According to former SDECE agent Louis Mouchon, "His business, the A. Berger et Cie Sugar company, offered ample opportunities to stage fronts. He really had excellent contacts." According to The Economist's obituary, "He was recruited into the French espionage service and helped to organise Gladio, an American backed plan to create an armed resistance movement in Western Europe against a Russian invasion."
Created by Colonel Fourcaud, in liaison with the US National Security Council, and then by Grossouvre, this network allegedly used the SAC Gaullist militia and the DPS, the National Front's currently dissolved militia. The DPS was created along with Jacques Foccart, after the 1982 dissolution of the SAC, and allegedly provided mercenaries for activities in the former French colonies in Africa.
He met Pierre Mendès France during the war, on a bomber. Mendès France would later introduce him to François Mitterrand.
In 1943 he married Claudette Berger, daughter of an industrialist, Antoine Berger, and had six children. Grossouvre managed his family-in-law's companies Le Bon Sucre (1944–63) and A. Berger et Cie (1949–63), and then founded the Générale Sucrière sugar company. Along with Italian collaborators, businessman Gilbert Beaujolin and the American Alexandre Patty, he succeeded in obtaining an exclusive production licence for Coca-Cola and building the first factory of this type in France. Distribution was by the Société parisienne de boissons gazeuses and the Glacières de Paris, both subsidiaries of Pastis Pernod.
Besides this industrial activity, François de Grossouvre was counsellor for foreign trade of France (1952–67) and vice-president of the Chambre de commerce franco-sarroise (1955–62). He invested some capital in the 1953 creation of L'Express magazine, and started a friendship with Françoise Giroud and Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber. In the 1970s he became the largest shareholder of La Montagne and the Journal du Centre regional dailies.
Grossouvre became a friend of Mitterrand during a trip to China in 1959, and participated in the Convention des institutions républicaines (CIR), a party created by Mitterrand in 1964, and dissolved at the 1971 Epinay Congress of the Socialist Party (PS). He was part of the triumvirate which presided the Fédération de la Gauche Démocrate Socialiste (FGDS) party directed by Mitterrand, who entrusted him, among other things, with the negotiations with the Communist Party (PCF). In 1974, Grossouvre became the godfather of Mazarine Pingeot, Mitterrand's daughter, whose existence was kept secret until the 1990s.
Grossouvre participated in all of Mitterrand's campaigns, starting with the 1965 with the CIR, to the election of 1988 (and 1974 as well as 1981). He followed Mitterrand to the Elysée Palace in 1981, was appointed in June chargé de mission (operations manager) and then conseiller du président (counsellor of the president) of President Mitterrand, who entrusted him with security and other sensitive matters, in particular related to Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Gabon, the Gulf countries, Pakistan and the two Koreas. He travelled a lot, in particular to Arab countries where he worked in the arms trade. His relations with Gemayel and Syrian president Hafez el Assad enabled him to assist in the negotiations for French hostages in the mid-1980s.
Grossouvre combined these functions with the presidency of the Comité des chasses présidentielles (Committee of Presidential Hunts), in charge of the hunting grounds of the presidency. He held this post until his death, and used the grounds for informal meetings.
According to Le Figaro, the decision to sink the Rainbow Warrior on 10 July 1985 was taken at a June meeting at the Elysée Palace, attended by Charles Hernu, Minister of Defence, Admiral Lacoste and François de Grossouvre
In July 1985, he officially ended his functions as adviser to the president, and worked as an international counsellor for arms-trader Marcel Dassault (1986-86). He nevertheless kept his office at the Elysée, his flat on the Quai Branly, a secretary and bodyguards from the GIGN, with the corresponding budget, although he began to distance himself from Mitterrand (and increasingly opposed Gilles Ménage, another advisor of the President). Grossouvre was nicknamed by some "L'Homme de l'ombre" (The Man of the Shadows).
Grossouvre committed suicide on 7 April 1994. His funeral took place on 11 April 1994 at Saint-Pierre de Moulins (Allier) church. Among the 400 persons assembled were President François Mitterrand, former Lebanese president Amin Gemayel, diplomatic representatives from Morocco and Pakistan, and former socialist ministers Pierre Joxe, Louis Mexandeau and René Souchon.