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Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Libération takes aim at Bernard Arnault with Sarkozy-type insults

There has been something of a furore in France this week - or as the media is so fond of saying "polemic" - surrounding a couple of headlines that have appeared in the national daily Libération.

The Left-leaning newspaper has been having fun with the news that France's richest man, Bernard Arnault, has applied for Belgian citizenship.

And it has been harking back to some of the most infamous phrases uttered by former president Nicolas Sarkozy to express its disgust at what it sees as a possible attempt by Arnault to avoid this country's inheritance tax laws.

Libération, Monday 10 September,  2012 (screenshot)

The reasons for Arnault's decision aren't exactly clear.

He has always paid taxes in France and says he'll continue to do so, claiming the application which was confirmed last weekend, was not a reaction to the proposed tax hike in France aimed at the super rich - of which he is the super-est.

You know the proposal: the one François Hollande conjured up from absolutely nowhere during his presidential campaign and is now grimly sticking to. Um. that interpretation probably deserves a Daily Telegraph link. Here you go.

There have also been suggestions that there are business reasons behind Arnault's application as well as a change in Belgium's laws next year which will apparently make it harder for anyone applying to be granted citizenship.

And then there's the inheritance tax issue of course - Arnault thinking about how to ensure that each of his five children gets as much of his money as possible when he pops his clogs.

Whatever the reasons, the media - national and international - has been largely leading with headlines that seem to suggest Arnault is running scared and there's about to be a mass exodus of the wealthy from France.

Libération though has been taking a different approach, and in the process incurring the wrath of the man himself who now says he'll sue the newspaper for insulting him publicly.

Oh dear. the poor man.

Er...hang on. Perhaps that needs to be put into some perspective.

How poor?

Well, according to Forbes magazine, the 63-year-old is not only France's richest person but also the wealthiest in Europe and the fourth in the world.

And as chairman (among other things) of the luxury goods company LVMH (Louis Vuitton-Moët Hennessy) and the fashion house Christian Dior, the appropriately described "business magnate" (merci Wikipedia) is worth a cool...hang on, get your calculators out...€31 billion or $41 billion  - a not insubstantial sum whichever way you look at it and an awful lot of zeros.

All hail champagne bubbles and high fashion heh?

So perhaps it's a little hard to have sympathy for someone who has made something of a PR blunder.

All right, Monday's edition of Libération which ran with a Sarkozy-type tribute of "Casse-toi riche con!" (thanks to The Guardian for providing a translation of "Get lost, rich jerk") might have been more than a little vulgar for those on the Right and many on the Left.

And perhaps Jean-Paul Sartre, one of the founders of the newspaper might have a few words to say about the rather "cheap" headline which harked back to Sarkozy's 2008 visit to the annual agricultural show in Paris and his reaction to a visitor who refused to shake his hand.
Libération, Tuesday 11 September, 2012 (screenshot)

Thankfully though Libération didn't take Arnault's threat of a legal suit lying down and went a step further for Tuesday's edition with another front page headline "Bernard, si tu reviens, j'annule tout".

That of course was a reference to the alleged text message Sarkozy (never) sent his then-wife Cécilia back in 2007 when she hot-footed it across the Atlantic to be with her now-husband (boy, this is some soap opera-type sentence huh?) Richard Attias.

Of course Libération could have a lot more fun with phrases borrowed from the not-so-distant presidential past. How about Sarkozy's sort-of 2007 campaign mantra - oops, slogan  - "Travailler plus pour gagner plus" or the "Ensemble tout devient possible"? They could surely work with a little imagination.

Or coming bang up-to-date and bringing Hollande into the equation, "Le changement, c'est maintenant"...hold the press "in two years time".

Suggestions on a Post-it please.

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