Xavier Niel is the majority shareholder and the historic leader of the Iliad Group. A self‐taught entrepreneur, he has been a player in the telematics, Internet and telecommunications industries since the late 1980s. Before devoting himself fully to the development of the Iliad Group, in 1993, he notably co‐founded the leading Internet access provider in France: Worldnet.
He has been at the source of major strategic developments for the Group. After creating 3617 ANNU, the first reverse directory service on Minitel (French precursor of the internet), he launched Free, the first free access provider in France in 1999. In 2002, Xavier Niel created the Freebox, the first multi‐service set‐top box providing access to "triple play" (internet‐phone‐TV) in the home. Free is the initiator of numerousinnovations in the high speed French market (VoIP, IPTV, ...) and is now developing its activities in broadband and in landline‐based very high speed with the rollout of an FTTH (fibre to the home) network. Free is currently deploying the fourth mobile phone network in France, and will offer its own mobile service in early 2012.
At the same time, Xavier Niel has also been investing significantly for years in internet start‐ups. In March 2010, he founded his own investment fund, Kima Ventures, which invests in 50‐100 start‐ups per year, worldwide.
Since 2010, Xavier Niel is the controlling shareholder of the newspaper Le Monde, along with Pierre Bergé and Matthieu Pigasse. Xavier Niel is a member of the Conseil National du Numérique (National Digital Council).