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François Pinault

Lifting the lid on François Pinault’s empire

A new book traces the entrepreneur's rise and potential fall

Is François Pinault’s empire under threat? This is the theme of a book published last year in France. According to François Pinault: l’empire menacé (François Roche, Editions du Carcois, 2003) the luxury-goods tycoon and owner of Christie’s bit off far more than he could chew when he bought Gucci. Buying up the final shareholding, as Mr Pinault will do next month under the terms of a contract signed the day before the 11 September terrorist attacks, could seriously strain the finances of the Pinault empire. The book, written by a journalist and previous editor of the financial weekly L’Expansion, retraces how Mr Pinault went from nothing to become one of France’s richest men. But his determination to challenge his arch-rival Bernard Arnault is going to cost his company, PPR, dear, says Mr Roche. The author calculates that next month PPR will have to pay out e3 billion (£2 billion, $3.8 billion) for Gucci, a brand whose profits can in no way justify this investment, he claims. Readers should bear in mind, however, that Mr Roche is a previous editor of La Tribune, which belongs to Bernard Arnault. Mr Arnault is the subject of L’ange exterminateur, ou la vrai vie de Bernard Arnault, by Airy Routier, Albin Michel 2003, as critical of its subject as is the book on Mr Pinault. Score settling?

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 144 February 2004