PARIS — François Pinault, the French billionaire who controls the Pinault-Printemps-Redoute luxury and retail conglomerate, faces a Friday deadline to reach a settlement with California prosecutors for alleged fraud in the acquisition of failed California insurer Executive Life in the early Nineties. But a source close to the entrepreneur said the deadline could be extended.

A spokeswoman for Artemis, Pinault’s family holding company, through which he controls PPR, declined all comment.

On Tuesday, Credit Lyonnais and a government agency established to rehabilitate the debt-ridden French bank Consortium de Realisation, offered to pay California federal prosecutors $545 million in an out-of-court settlement on allegations that the bank fraudulently acquired Executive Life. California law at that time forbade banks from controlling insurance companies.

Pinault, who has been granted immunity in the federal case, was not named in the agreement with Lyonnais.

It is believed that Pinault is now willing to pay some $250 million to settle with prosecutors to avoid a case against some of his close associates, including Patricia Barbizet, his top aide.

Meanwhile, Pinault still faces a suit at the U.S. district court in Los Angeles filed by the California insurance commissioner. It alleges that Pinault fraudulently made huge profits when he acquired Executive Life’s junk-bond portfolio, financed by a $2 billion loan from Lyonnais, then controlled by the French state.

That case is not expected to be heard before late 2004. Prosecutors are believed to be seeking $1 billion in compensation from Pinault, according to French press reports.

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