Marc Simoncini and Alain Afflelou were elected as the most admired French businessmen in a poll organized by the magazine, Capital.
Simoncini, who topped the ranking, is the founder of the dating website Meetic and until recently involved in the eyewear business. He entered the eyewear business in 2011 with the creation of Sensee, specializing in the online sale of eyeglasses, sunglasses and contact lenses. Through his investment arm Jaïna Capital, Simoncini had also acquired the contact lens site lentillesmoinscheres.com. Simoncini was planning to revolutionize the French optical market by halving the price of glasses. In 2015, the company opened its first physical stores as it launched an omnichannel policy.
But, on Jan. 27, 2020, Simoncini pulled out the eyewear business, selling the Sensee group to Acuitis, a French chain of optical and hearing-aids’ shops managed by Jonathan Abittan. The assets sold included the two websites, four stores and a logistics hub.
Alain Afflelou, who runs the namesake optician chain, is the second most admired boss, moving up the ranking compared to the previous year. The magazine Capital highlighted that, in April, Afflelou’s retail chain offered 500,000 face masks to health workers.
In 2015, the two businessmen had a spat on internet when Afflelou questioned Simoncini’s credentials to run an eyewear business with the tweet “Au fait, c’est quoi son métier?” (By the way, what’s his job?). To which, Simoncini answered that the ridesharing company Uber had obviously been launched by a taxi driver and that Xavier Niel, the creator of the disruptive telecommunications operator Iliad, has worked for the telecommunication incumbent France Télécom. He went on to create the hastag #ParlecommeAlainAfflelou (Speak like Alain Afflelou), after which Afflelou threw in the towel, inviting Simoncini to continue the debate over a meal or a drink.