UPDATED: 4/29/15 6:05 pm ET - adds details
Editor's note: Earlier versions of this story listed the incorrect age for Francois Michelin. He was 88.
Francois Michelin, the grandson of Michelin & Cie.'s founder and head of the French tiremaker for almost half a century, has died. He was 88.
The company, based in Clermont-Ferrand in central France, confirmed the death in a statement on Wednesday. No other details were given.
Under Michelin's leadership, the 126-year-old manufacturer expanded its global operations, especially in the U.S., opening 25 factories outside France from 1960 through 1979.
The success of its radial tire, called the Michelin X, was crucial in boosting revenue outside Europe and helped the company become the region's biggest tiremaker. He ran the tiremaker from 1955 to 2002.
"He was one of the greatest French industrialists in the postwar years," President Francois Hollande said in a statement. "He understood the importance of innovation and of long-term industrial development. By developing the radial tire, he transformed a family and regional company into one of the biggest French groups and one of its best-known."
Michelin also took the strategic decision, in 1976, to withdraw from the car business by selling French automaker Citroen to Peugeot SA.
The merger led to the creation of PSA Peugeot Citroen, now Europe's second-biggest car manufacturer after Germany's Volkswagen AG. He decided to buy Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. in 1990 to strengthen his company's position in America. Michelin & Cie. is also the publisher of restaurant and hotel guides.
"I would like to pay special tribute to this exceptional man who was universally respected for his values, his convictions and his vision," Michelin Chief Executive Officer Jean-Dominique Senard said in a statement.
One of the former Michelin CEO's notable hirings was Carlos Ghosn, now CEO of both Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. Ghosn, who took up his first job in 1978 and stayed at Michelin for 18 years, helped develop its activities in North America.
"I want today to pay tribute to the memory of a humble and honest man, a humanist boss and captain of industry deeply attached to the global performance of a French industry with solid French roots," Ghosn said in a statement Wednesday.
Francois Michelin only gave interviews to Clermont-Ferrand's local newspaper and never chaired the company's annual general meeting during his time as CEO.
He was the father of Edouard Michelin, who led the tiremaker with him from 1999 to 2002 and then on his own from 2002 until his death at age 42 in a boating accident in 2006.
Francois Michelin was born in 1926 in Clermont-Ferrand, a city in France's Auvergne region, to Etienne Michelin and the former Madeleine Callies, according to Marquis Who's Who.
In later years, Francois Michelin lived in EHPAD Ma Maison, a retirement home managed by Petites Soeurs des Pauvres, a Catholic religious institute for women. He married the former Bernadette Montagne in 1951.