Olivier Van Ruymbeke has been CEO of France's largest independent auto parts distributor, Autodistribution, since 1999. In that role, he has proved to be a champion for the independent auto aftermarket industry.
A graduate from Ecole Nationale d'Administration, France's school for top civil servants, he joined Conseil d'Etat, the country's supreme court that handles government cases. The position is widely seen as one of France's plum jobs because it is prestigious and rarely hectic. Yet Van
Ruymbeke left the job to join the rough-and-tumble of the car industry. He started with Citroen where he headed its Italian unit for three years. He then moved on to Peugeot where he took care of worldwide spare parts logistics for the PSA/Peugeot-Citroen group. He joined Autodistribution five years ago.
The desire to tackle a challenge runs in the family: Van Ruymbeke's brother, Renaud, is one of France's prominent corruption-fighting judges.
Name: Olivier Van Ruymbeke.
Title: CEO, Autodistribution France.
Family: Married, two children.
Countries lived in: France, Italy.
Education: Ecole Nationale d'Administration (France's top school for civil servants).
First car: Renault R12.
What car do you drive?
A red and grey Renault Avantime. I love that car. The fact it has no central pillar makes it feel like a cabriolet during the summer.
What is your dream car?
A Cadillac cabriolet.
What are your favorite restaurants?
Le Grand Vefour and La Grande Cascade (two top Paris restaurants with striking traditional architecture and decor).
What's your favorite dish?
Cassoulet (a traditional dish from southwest France, typically made with duck or goose and beans).
What is your idea of a perfect holiday?
Spending time in Marie-Galante, an island in the French Caribbean near Guadeloupe. The pace of life there is something else.
What is the best holiday you ever had?
Sienna in the summer at the time of the Palio horse race on the Piazza del Campo. Siena's contradas, or neighborhoods, compete against each other. Once the race is over, the people of the winning contrada rush to the cathedral for a ceremony. The pageant is quite extraordinary.
What is your greatest regret?
Spending too little time with my two children.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Combining total dedication with the ability to distance oneself. Not being overly affected if things don't work out.
What is your worst fear?
On a personal level, a family breakup. On a nonpersonal level, I worry that financiers will stifle entrepreneurs by forcing them to focus exclusively on the financial side of things.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I like ancient books. At the moment, I am eyeing a 19th century edition of Rousseau's complete works.
What is your most-treasured possession?
An 18th century orthodox icon.
What trait do you most deplore in yourself?
I try to reach a compromise too often.
Who is your favorite fiction hero?
D'Artagnan (a valiant officer of French King Louis XIII in Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers).
Who are your real-life heroes?
I don't have one. I don't like the thought of having a role model.
What other industry would you have liked to work for?
The food industry.
If you could meet any figure in history who would it be?
What would you ask him?
How he combined strategy and immediate implementation.
What personal things do you have in your office?
A poster of a religious painting by Antonello da Messina, an Italian painter from the 15th century. He introduced Flemish painting methods in Italy.