The Gontard family originally comes from le Dauphiné region in France.
Claude Gontard set up the “Manufacture de Chaussures Cousues et Rivées-Gontard Ainé & ses fils” (a luxury shoes industry) in Lyon in 1835, which he handed over to his sons. His two sons and associates, Albin and Louis Gontard, sold the company in 1909 with the commitment to preserve the family name which has ever since become “Chaussures Stéphane Gontard” (www.stephane-gontard.com) and acquired Docks Lyonnais in 1907, three years after its creation.
Under the aegis of the new managers, Docks Lyonnais was transformed into a “capitalist food company with multiple branches” and opened numerous sales outlets (650 in the Rhône-Alpes region and a total of 3,000 in France). Structuring acquisitions such as Société Laitière Moderne (a milk production and distribution company) and Compagnie Générale des Vins du Midi et d’Algérie (a wine production and distribution company) were soon integrated.
After Louis and Albin passed away in 1951, Albin’s son, Albert Gontard, took over the destiny of the group. He accompanied the revolution in new distribution systems imported from the United States by creating the GRO and Mini-GRO supermarket brands and supported his son Jacques Gontard, President of Docks de Nevers, to develop the brand as a hypermarket under a Carrefour franchise in the wake of seminars organised by the high priest of distribution at the time, Bernardo Trujillo.
Jean Gontard, Albert’s brother, who became President for a few years, left to his nephew, Jacques Gontard, the company in 1975.
Jacques Gontard expanded the supermarket business in France, mainly through hypermarkets under the brand name Euromarché, until a strategic turning point in the 1980s. Facing a fierce competition and challenging environment (despite low profitability), he received attractive offers that generously enhanced the goodwill of the business. In 1983, the small and medium-sized supermarkets were sold to Genty-Cathiard, which became Rallye. In 1986, the hypermarkets were sold to Euromarché, now Carrefour.
As a result, Docks Lyonnais became a property and finance company dedicated to enhancing historical heritage properties (notably the redevelopment of the former Vaise warehouses in the 9th district of Lyon) and participating in new real estate transactions in France (e.g. Magasins d’Usine, shopping centre where manufacturers sell their surplus products directly).
In 1987 and 1989, Frédéric and Yann Gontard joined the Board of Directors, still chaired by their father, Jacques. For nearly 20 years, Yann Gontard contributed through his strategic vision and his development skills in bringing to the next level international companies specialising in real estate and finance.
When the new tax regime for listed real estate investment trusts (R.E.I.T.) was introduced, share prices on the Paris Stock Market were significantly higher than their re-evaluated net asset value. This historical situation led to the company’s arbitrage with foreign investors. At the end of 2005, the majority of the shareholders transferred the capital to Shaftesbury Asset Management and Continental European Fund (UBS Wealth Management) to undertake a new phase of development.
At that moment, Yann Gontard set up the Gontard Group to continue the evolution of his family history. He created a legal structure focused on a real estate and financial services business, on the one hand, and short- and long-term investment vehicles according to the intrinsic quality of the acquired assets on the other hand. In doing so, he relied on a family tradition of entrepreneurship going back for several generations to perpetuate a forward-looking group in the area of real estate and finance sectors, and thereby paid tribute to the heritage he had received from his family.