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COVER BOY: Libération is not letting Bernard Arnault off the hook. Last September, the French daily ran a photo of him under the headline “Casse-toi riche con!” — whose most polite translation is “Get Lost Rich Idiot!” — and the luxury titan landed on Thursday’s front page again.
The first cover treatment was a riposte to Arnault’s revelation that he’d applied for Belgian citizenship — just as France’s Socialist government vowed to impose a 75 percent tax rate on incomes of more than 1 million euros, or $1.3 million at current exchange.
This story first appeared in the January 25, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Now the newspaper is probing details on a plan it says he has set up for his Belgian foundation, under the headline: “Les secrets belges de Bernard Arnault,” whose translation is “The Belgian Secrets of Bernard Arnault.”
According to the paper, in case the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman dies before 2023, the day when his youngest son turns 25, a committee including former French economy minister Thierry Breton and two other persons would manage Groupe Arnault. “The official version is that Bernard Arnault has created the foundation to protect unity of the group. But this kind of foundation can offer other advantages, such as lower inheritance tax than there is in France. However, we don’t know if Arnault is planning to use this,” Yann Philippin, the author of the story, told WWD.
“Bernard Arnault wants to prevent a scenario à la Lacoste from happening,” the journalist added, referencing the family feud that led to the acquisition of Lacoste SA by Swiss retail group Maus Frères.
Groupe Arnault declined to comment.
France’s richest man said he “is and will remain” a fiscal resident of France. A court date has been fixed for later this year as Arnault seeks amends for public insult against Libération for the September article.
It is understood the luxury group has stopped advertising in the paper in retaliation. This could add to the ailing publication’s financial woes.
The Socialist government’s plan to impose the 75 percent tax rate was rejected by the French Constitutional council on Dec. 29. The government is currently working on a new text, a government’s spokesman said.