Former Champagne Pol Roger CEO Christian de Billy dies aged 93
Christian de Billy, who was the grandson of Maurice Pol Roger (who had been Mayor of Epernay during the First World War) and great grandson of Pol Roger – the founder of Champagne Pol Roger in 1849 – died in Epernay on Friday 26 August at the age of 93.
Christian is survived by four of his children, along with eleven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Born in his grandfather’s house in Epernay on 19 November 1928, he was the son of Maurice Pol-Roger’s daughter, Antoinette, who married Jean de Billy, an officer in the French Air Force and a member of the elite Cigogne squadron during the First World War.
Before Christian joined the management team at Pol Roger in the company’s centennial year of 1949, he completed his education in Paris at the Bossuet School during the war, followed by undertaking his military service in Germany and spending time in England and Spain to learn English and Spanish.
He spent half of his first year working in the company’s cellars, following the tradition set for each member of the family entering the business. Christian married Louis Budin’s youngest daughter, Chantal, in 1955. Budin was head of the neighbouring champagne house, Perrier Jouët.
In 1953, Christian was made export director taking on much of the company’s long-distance travel, promoting Pol Roger in a number of key markets. He became joint managing director with Jean Pol-Roger in 1956, before becoming chief executive officer in 1977. Christian not only secured the independence of the house by significantly increasing the size of the family-owned vineyard, but also launched the Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill, the vintage rosé and the blanc de blancs.
He received the National Order of Merit in the late 1980’s and in 1998, Christian de Billy was also appointed as Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
He retired as managing director and became president of the Conseil de Surveillance of Pol Roger in the same year, passing the torch to his daughter Véronique in 2019.
The legacy of Christian will continue in the hands of his three daughters, Laurence, Evelyne and Veronique, who sit on the Conseil de Surveillance, and of his son Hubert, member of the Directoire, while his grandson Bastien occupies the role of secretaire general of Pol Roger, to which he was appointed in October 2020. In this way the Billy and Pol-Roger families will lead the company forward with the same resolve that was applied at its foundation six generations ago.
Christian was also a lover of country pursuits and loved to shoot and hunt wild boar. He also enjoyed fly fishing, fine food, claret and whisky alongside his own Champagne.