We Want Answers: Pierre Brondeau

The French-born CEO of FMC, the Philly chemical company that just thrust its name into our skyline, talks fine dining, dressing down, and what you’ll find in the garage of his Main Line manse.

Pierre Brondeau | Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Pierre Brondeau | Photograph by Claudia Gavin

What spurred you to become an anchor tenant in the 49-story FMC Tower?

There are many reasons. The first is that we are not among all of the other buildings. When you come back from the airport or you’re on 76, it’s almost impossible to not see the FMC logo. If we had built the building in Center City, it would not have been visible. And it’s also a good recruitment tool for us. We are surrounded by incredible universities. We want every single student in Philly to know about FMC. We want to be their first choice. 

You have a master’s degree in food sciences. Does that make you a foodie?

Yes, it definitely makes me a foodie. I love to eat in Philadelphia. We have an underrated food scene here. I would put Philly up against any of the best cities in the world for its restaurants. Every time I have friends come from France, they love the city. When I’m at Rittenhouse Square during the summer, I feel like I’m in Paris.

What prompted you to become a U.S. citizen in 2011?

I love France. But it’s just a more difficult place in which to do business and even live life. In France, there is more administration, more unions, more red tape. It’s a very different way to look at business and life. If I could, I would have become an American much earlier.

You have 550 employees in the new tower, with room to expand to 750. What’s the plan to fill it up?

We have three core segments — agriculture, health and nutrition, and lithium. All of these markets have secure growth. Over the past seven years, we’ve simplified the company and refocused on those three markets where we know we have growth potential. So we’ll be hiring in Philly and also around the world.

Controversy isn’t uncommon in the chemical industry. What does FMC see as its role when NGOs say that your products are harmful to people and the environment?

As a chemical company, we have to be absolutely certain that any product we put on the market is safe, because there is so much to lose. We have to use science and data to show that the product is safe. And at the end of the day, the consumer is always right, so it is our responsibility to replace a product with one that is better perceived by consumers, even though we may have science behind us.

You rarely wear a tie. What does that say about the kind of workplace you run?

We are a little less formal than most chemical companies. At our building, there is a lot of open space. People can take their computers and sit anywhere they want on any floor. You can wear jeans at FMC. You can wear a t-shirt at FMC. And I think this reflects the way I am. I’m not a very formal guy.

I’ve seen some stunning pictures of your Gladwyne home. Is minimalism your overall aesthetic?

Actually, it’s mostly Melissa, my wife. We like designs that are very simple. If there is a wall, it’s going to be a light paint. If you go in our house, there will not be a lot of big things hanging. It’s going to be light. It’s going to be modern.

I heard that you had the speed bumps removed from the FMC Tower lot.

[Laughs] Who said that? All we asked was to make sure that the speed bumps wouldn’t be too high. I have a car or two that are pretty low. I love cars.

Which do you love the most?

My Ferrari. When I got it, I couldn’t believe I was the owner of such a car. Like a stupid kid, I look at it sometimes. I have chairs set up in the garage so that I can drink a glass of wine when I’m feeling a bit stressed and look at my car. Everyone’s going to make fun of me for this.

Published as “We Want Answers: Pierre Brondeau” in the January 2017 of Philadelphia magazine.