Pierre Fabre, founder of the eponymous pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant, died Saturday at his home in southwestern France, aged 87, a source close to the company said.
The company which he founded in 1962 employs 10,000 people -- 6,700 in France -- and had a turnover of 1.972 billion euros last year.
It has 42 overseas branches, with products available in 130 countries.
French employers' union MEDEF paid tribute to Fabre -- France's 43rd richest man according to financial weekly Challenges -- saying his death was "a huge loss".
"Pierre Fabre had a vision and an ambitious plan for his company," said its new president Pierre Gattaz in a statement.
"He was one of the big French decision makers, one of those who gave most to his region, to the job market and local economic development."
Fabre, a rugby union fanatic who owned current French champions Castres, died in his hometown of Lavaur, near Toulouse.