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Bernard Arnault Sues Over Unauthorized Bio

Bernard Arnault is keeping French lawyers busy and has filed a $107,730 lawsuit against an author and publisher of an unauthorized biography.

PARIS — Bernard Arnault is again keeping French lawyers busy.

This story first appeared in the April 16, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The luxury titan has launched a $107,730 lawsuit against Airy Routier, author of an unauthorized biography entitled “Angel Exterminator: The Real Life of Bernard Arnault,” and the book’s publisher, Albin Michel. (Dollar figures are converted from euros at current exchange rates.)

The lawsuit, filed in Paris’ highest civil court, seeks damages for “defamation and injury” allegedly caused by the book’s contents and its sensational title.

Under the French legal system, Routier and the publisher have until the end of next week to submit documents cited in the writ. The case will ultimately be heard and refereed by a judge, but the first court date has yet to be fixed. Legal sources familiar with such cases said a final decision could take six months to a year.

Released earlier this year in France with surprisingly little media hoopla, the 425-page tome relates how Arnault rose from a little-known builder and real estate developer to become head of the world’s largest luxury empire, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. The book delves into the intense business rivalry between Arnault and François Pinault of Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, who owns a controlling stake in Gucci Group as a result of foiling an LVMH takeover attempt.

Routier, a reporter with the left-leaning news weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, said Tuesday that he was not alarmed by the lawsuit and predicted he would prevail. He argued that most of the information presented is his book is already in the public domain, with the exception of a private investigator’s report, which he will submit to the court.

The book has sold about 40,000 copies in France, according to its author.

As reported, Arnault also has a $100-million bias and conflict of interest lawsuit against investment bank Morgan Stanley winding its way though commercial court here. The next hearing in that case, in which the French group charges the investment firm with an anti-LVMH bias in its equity research, is set for April 28.