Rene Monory, a French auto mechanic-turned-statesman who championed mutual funds and made it easier for employees to own shares in their companies, died on Saturday, a regional official said. He was 85.
Monory died overnight in his family home in Loudun in western France, said Patrick Flot, a senior official of the Vienne region.
Monory served from 1992-1998 as president of the French Senate, the country's second-most powerful political position. If a French president dies or is incapacitated, power goes to the Senate president.
"Self-taught and of modest origins, a mechanic's apprentice at 15 and passionate worker, he mounted one by one the echelons of the nation's meritocracy," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement on Saturday.
Sarkozy praised the "social humanism" of the Monory Law, the first such legislation to encourage employee share-ownership plans.
Born June 6, 1923, Monory worked as an auto mechanic before becoming mayor of his native Loudun in 1959. He devoted himself to politics, and was elected to the Senate in 1968.
He joined the government in 1977 under center-right President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, overseeing industry and commerce. The next year Monory became economics minister, though he claimed that he had never read an economics book in his life.