PARIS — French billionaires Francois Pinault and Bernard Arnault are always trying to downplay their rivalry. And just when it looks like the media might be exaggerating the bad blood between them, each gets a hankering for the same bauble and a new front erupts.
The latest tug-of-war is for Connaissance des Arts, an esoteric fine arts monthly with a paid subscription base of 38,000, and sources close to the talks say that Arnault has outbid Pinault. A spokesman for Arnault declined to confirm the acquisition or to comment on bidding for the review. Arnault is said to be paying $4 million (converted from francs at current exchange rates), but it could not be learned if the deal were signed.
Late last week, Pinault announced that he was no longer pursuing talks to buy the magazine.
Both Pinault and Arnault have auction house interests — Pinault owns Christie’s, and Arnault owns Phillips auction house of London and recently scooped up France’s largest auctioneer, Etude Tadjan — so there are obvious connections with Connaissance des Arts. There could be Internet applications, too. Arnault is aggressively pursuing online investments via his $500 million Europ@web fund.