London Calling? Rumors Swirl of Possible Sarkozy Move

Prime Minister Cameron and former President Sarkozy enjoying a friendly momentPhoto:  flickr.com/conservativeparty

Prime Minister Cameron and former President Sarkozy enjoying a friendly moment
Photo: flickr.com/conservativeparty

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy may be planning to establish a $1.2 billion private equity firm in London, if rumors are to be believed. Mediapart, a “respected investigative website”—according to U.K. publication The Telegraph—reported this week that documents found in Sarkozy’s Paris residence and offices suggest the former head-of-state is in an “exploratory phase” of pursuing business across the Channel.

Documents were seized in a raid of Sarkozy’s home and offices last summer in connection to the investigation of the “Bettencourt Affair,” a series of allegations that L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt illegally contributed substantial funds to Sarkozy’s successful 2007 presidential bid.

If true, Sarkozy’s move to London would “spark a scandal a thousand times more powerful” than French Actor Gérard Depardieu’s highly-publicized move to Belgium and acquiring of Russian nationality in order to avoid higher taxes proposed by current president François Hollande. Hollande has proposed a controversial tax rate of 75% on all earnings over one million euros a year, as well as a capital-gains tax of over 60% on stocks, bonds, and company sales, reports The Telegraph.

Reports have alleged that Sarkozy has, in past months, been seeking the help of businessman and confidant Alain Minc to seek out investors for the creation of a future private equity fund. Mediapart reported that during the course of a recent trip, Sarkozy approached Singapore sovereign fund Temasek for an investment of 200 million euros ($267 million), though the request was declined. Sarkozy often stated that he hoped to make money after leaving politics, and “has a thousand contacts and hasn’t made up his mind about what he wants to do,” according to The Telegraph and Mediapart.

Alain Minc has denied taking part in establishing a fund with Sarkozy, and rumors of such an action are thrown into doubt by other talk of a possible political comeback for Sarkozy in 2017. The Telegraph reported in October that Sarkozy had been overheard saying: “Given the disastrous state in which France risks finding itself in five years’ time, I will have no choice in 2017. The question is not whether I return, but whether I have a choice morally in regards to France not to return. Morally I can not discard the French.”  A move to Britain may very well be seen as exactly that.

Mediapart journalist Laurent Mauduit told The Telegraph that Sarkozy may yet set up a company in London even if the ousted French politician does not physically move there.

Last June, British Prime Minister David Cameron cheekily told reporters he would “roll out the red carpet” to French businesses wishing to evade François Hollande’s taxation. If the rumors are true, Sarkozy may want nothing less.

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