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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La droite et les affaires : l’exemple de LVMH

by Pierre Ivorra

The Right Wing and the Scandals: The Example of LVMH

Translated Monday 12 July 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

Florence Woerth sits on the board of directors of Hermès, a subsidiary of LMVH, the gigantic luxury-products company that is controlled by billionaire Bernard Arnault, who has thrived out of the spotlight cast on government and the banks.

On June 7, 2010, Florence Woerth, the wife of the Minister of Labor, made a not-unnoticed entry onto the supervisory board of Hermès, a subsidiary of LMVH, the gigantic luxury-products company. On what grounds? Is it due to her role as manager of the third-largest fortune in France, that of Liliane Bettencourt? That hardly seems credible. In which case, there remains only one reason: her title as “the wife of...”

The case of Florence Woerth is not exceptional at LVMH. On April 15, the wife of the former president of France, Bernadette Chirac, preceded her at the group. The shareholders’ annual meeting elected her to the board of directors of the world’s biggest luxury-goods company.

One may, of course, view these gilded promotions as just an old-boys affair. And so the close relationship between LVMH’s biggest shareholder, Bernard Arnault, the richest man in France, and former president Jacques Chirac, has long been a matter of public record. But in reality, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

In fact, the board of directors of LVMH is a veritable textbook case illustrating the links between the right wing and the big industrial, financial and services groups. Notably, Nicolas Bazire, former principal private secretary to Edouard Balladur, sits on it. This graduate of the Ecole nationale d’administration switched from the public to the private sector in 1995 when he took up a position at Rothschild & Cie. After that, he added to his visiting card: he became the CEO of the Arnault group, sitting on the board of directors of LVMH, Carrefour, and Suez Environnement.

At LVMH, Bazire found an old chum, Charles de Croisset, a seasoned veteran of the ministerial cabinets, who had no scruples about switching from the Ministry of the Economy to the French bank Crédit commercial de France (CCF), and from CCF to Edouard Balladur’s cabinet. De Croisset returned to CCF, and now sits on the board of directors of Bouygues, Hermès, Renault, and Galeries Lafayette. He occupies his free time collaborating in the activities of Goldman Sachs International, the U.S. bank.

Nicolas Bazire and Charles de Croizet sit with yet another former member of Edouard Balladur’s cabinets, former European commissioner Yves-Thibault de Silguy, who was also formerly one of Jacques Chirac’s advisors.

But the LVMH group and its main shareholder, Bernard Arnault, owe their good fortune to the combined help of the government and the banks. It was Laurent Fabius, the Socialist Party politician, who, in a certain way, put the billionaire on the road to fortune. In 1984, Fabius allowed Arnault to get his hands on what remained of the Boussac group, which notably included the Dior company. The French bank Crédit Lyonnais [which was nationalized on December 2, 1945] provided the ammunition. Moreover it was this same bank that gave Arnault the key to the LVMH luxury-goods empire by financing him with all its might year after year. This decisive aid was encouraged when the right wing returned to government, with Jacques Chirac as Prime Minister, in 1986.

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