PARIS — A U.S. judge has ordered French billionaire François Pinault to pay almost $190 million plus interest to the California insurance commissioner in what is ostensibly the last chapter of the drawn-out Executive Life affair.
Pinault, who controls French diversified retailer PPR, which owns Gucci Group, is said to have long ago set aside sufficient funds in case of an unfavorable judgment. Sources said the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Howard Matz is likely to bring to an end Pinault’s legal battle with the California insurance commissioner. Pinault’s involvement in the Executive Life scandal dates to his purchase of the failed insurer from French bank Credit Lyonnais and then his sale of its junk bond portfolio at a huge profit.
In February, the French government reached a deal for Credit Lyonnais to pay $600 million to settle its involvement in the case. Pinault refused to settle, and after a three-month trial, he was cleared personally of any wrongdoing.
But Pinault’s family investment firm, Artemis, was found guilty of conspiracy and told to pay $700 million in punitive damages. Matz dropped that fine in October. Sources said Pinault could contest interest payments and how they should be calculated. The judge said interest should be calculated by the involved parties no later than Wednesday.
Pinault already paid $185 million to the court as part of a settlement in 2003. In a statement, Artemis said that money would be allocated to the fine, adding that the sale of Executive Life to Swiss Re for $240 million would add to its balance.