Franco-Australian business leader to receive third Legion d'honneur

Chairman of aerospace company to become one of a set 1,250 people to hold Commandeur status

Mr McInnes (far-right) pictured with president Emmanuel Macron, former Transport Minister Clément Beaune, and colleague Olivier Andries in 2023
Published Last updated

A Franco-Australian businessman has been nominated for a Legion d’honneur award for the third time in his career. 

Ross McInnes, currently the chairman of French aerospace and defence company Safran, was nominated by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion as part of France's traditional July 14 honours list. 

He will receive the award and rank of Commandeur – the third-highest possible. 

It is the third time the businessman has been nominated for a Legion d’Honneur – he was first appointed as a Chevalier (knight) in 2008, and then Officier (officer) in 2015. 

Storied career of dual-national

The businessman was born in 1954 to Australian parents living in India, but during his childhood the family relocated to France. 

He completed his studies in PPE (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics) at Oxford, before going on to work in the banking sector in London, Rio de Janeiro, and Paris. 

Switching to the industrial sector in the late 1980s, Mr McInnes worked for various French companies before joining Safran in 2009. He was appointed chairman of the company in 2015. 

In the same year, Mr McInnes was appointed by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a Special Representative for the country, for improving business ties with Australia and promoting France as an investment opportunity.

Mr McInnes holds dual French and Australian citizenship, but as Safran works in the defence sector, his role may have been listed as a ‘sensitive’ position by the far-right Rassemblement National

The party included a ban on dual-nationals holding certain ‘sensitive’ jobs as part of their manifesto for the 2024 legislative elections.

Read more: Can the French far right ban foreigners from certain jobs?

In March, Mr McInnes called the prospect of a Rassemblement National government ‘dystopian’ in an interview with Le Figaro

How does the Legion d’honneur work? 

The Legion d’honneur is not a single award, but comes in five possible ranks, with recipients required to spend a certain amount of time at each level before they can advance. 

Awards are given out to people based on their public service to France, or for exemplary work in their career. 

The ranks are as follows: 

Chevalier (Knight): at least 20 years of public service or 25 years of outstanding work in their field of expertise

Officier (Officer): at least eight years in the rank of Chevalier

Commandeur (Commander): at least five years in the rank of Officier

Grand officier (Grand Officer): at least three years in the rank of Commandeur

Grand-croix (Grand Cross): at least three years in the rank of Grand-officier

In addition, there are limits on the number of holders of each rank: 75 Grand-Croix, 250 Grand Officier, 1,250 Commandeurs, 10,000 Officiers, and more than 100,000 chevaliers (although these quotas have not been completely filled in recent years). 

Honours for combat veterans are made independently of these lists. 

Non-French citizens cannot become official members of the order, but can be granted an award – around 300 non-French people receive honours each year. 

Some famous non-French recipients include Tina Turner, Clint Eastwood, Paul McCartney, and J.K. Rowling.

Read more: French president criticised for giving Légion d’honneur to Jeff Bezos