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The end of an era: Madame Augier, owner of Negresco dies

Madame Jeanne Augier (C) DR

The start of 2019 saw the loss of one of Nice’s most iconic personalities. On 7 January, Madame Jeanne Augier, owner of the Negresco Hotel since 1957, passed away at the age of 96.

She was influential in bringing the city of Nice to world recognition with the grand hotel that she inherited from her father. Together with her husband, Paul Augier, they made the Negresco a luxurious palace that became a favourite with the rich and famous. Known not only for its luxury, the Negresco is also known for being unexpected and Avant-guard. Refusing repeated offers to purchase the landmark hotel, Mme Augier kept the Negresco true to her unique style, remaining one of the few high-end, independently owned hotels of the world. She once told Liberation newspaper: "I must have a hundred offers a year to buy the Negresco. It's out of the question."

Often called ‘flamboyant,’ Madame Augier’s bright hair, red lips and colourful wardrobe made her an unmistakable icon of Nice and she was revered for her fabulous taste in art and flair for surprising her guests with exceptional treats and special experiences.

An avid art collector, Madame Augier acquired an impressive collection of French art, particularly antique furniture, busts of French aristocracy and classical paintings, which famously adorne the walls the hotel. Over the decades, she amassed over 6,000 pieces spanning 500 years of French history.

Its no wonder the Negresco became a favourite for top stars and artists. From the Beatles to Salvador Dalí, to the world’s royal families, the Negresco is the place to stay when in Nice. Even Elton John featured the hotel in the music video for his song ‘I’m still standing.’

Nice has lost an icon, but Madame Augier will certainly not be forgotten.

The hotel has announced that they will hang their flags at half-staff for the remainder of January in tribute to the grand dame. In a press release, the hotel stated:

‘The Board of Directors and all the employees of Hotel Negresco are deeply saddened to inform you of the death of Jeanne Augier, President and CEO...With her husband Paul Augier, she has made Negresco an unexpected Palace, a luxurious establishment in her image, world-renowned and the last major independent hotel in France…
‘A tireless advocate for people with disabilities, people in distress and the animal cause, she has worked generously to relieve their suffering. It is in this same spirit that the Board of Directors and all the employees intend to perpetuate the creativity, the free and independent character of a great Lady who leaves the city of Nice, an emblem of the French way of life.’

Hotel Le Negresco by Kurt Bauschardt.  CC by-SA 2.0

Being the most photographed and iconic landmark in Nice and part of the fabric of the city, the Negresco is near and dear to the Mayor, Christian Estrosi. In a statement about the passing of Mme Augier, he highlighted the unmistakable connection of the Negresco with the image of Nice, the illustrious history of hosting Russian Tsars and English kings and his wish for the continued transition of the hotel. He stated:

'I am very sad to learn of the death of Jeanne Augier, the historical and charismatic patron saint of Negresco, one of the emblems of our city. Born in Brittany but Nicoise at heart, Jeanne Augier worked all her life to promote Nice. 
Thanks to its commitment to luxury tourism, Nice has remained a world-famous destination, in the tradition opened 150 years ago by the Tsars of Russia and the Kings of England. The image of the city is today inseparable from this palace, with its pink dome and neo-baroque style that has stood the test of time and has ruled the Promenade des Anglais for over a century.
Throughout the 20th century, the Negresco represented the best we could offer the world thanks to the level of excellence sought by Jeanne Augier since the 1950s, when she and her husband, Paul Augier, had the courage to take the lead of this flagship in our hotel heritage. I would like to express my gratitude to her for this unfailing determination, my respect for her struggles, my admiration for her passion for culture. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones.
A new chapter opens for Negresco. I hope more than ever that it will remain an exceptional establishment by becoming emblematic of luxury in the 21st century. In memory of Jeanne Augier. So that the people of Nice will continue to be proud, for another century, of their unique historical heritage and the quality of their tradition of hospitality.'
-Christian Estrosi, Mayor of Nice, President of the Nice Côte d'Azur Metropolitan Area, Deputy President of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region