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France's richest man moves to Belgium and takes multi-billion pound fortune with him 'to avoid new socialist super-tax'Bernard Arnault, head of
luxury goods group LVMH, insists that he moved the cash and assets for
‘family inheritance reasons’It is thought he wants to avoid a 75 per cent top rate on income being introduced by President Francois Hollande
19:35 GMT, 24 January 2013
23:15 GMT, 24 January 2013
Bernard Arnault, the 63-year-old head of luxury goods group LVMH, insists that he moved the cash and assets for 'family inheritance reasons
The richest man in France has officially transferred his multi-billion pounds fortune out of his Socialist-run homeland, it was confirmed today.
Bernard Arnault, the 63-year-old head of luxury goods group LVMH, insists that he moved the cash and assets for ‘family inheritance reasons’.
But others are convinced that, like numerous other tycoons and celebrities, he simply wants to avoid taxes including a 75 per cent top rate on income being introduced by President Francois Hollande.
Mr Arnault, who owns numerous homes around the world including one in London, applied for a Belgian passport soon after Mr Hollande’s Socialists won presidential and parliamentary elections last year.
Critics immediately attacked him for leaving the country that is associated with all the brands which made his fortune – including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Guerlain, Moet & Chandon champagne and Hennessy cognac.
Nicolas Demorand, the editor of national newspaper Liberation, attacked him for ‘forgetting the country which has made him King’, adding : ‘Bernard Arnault is running the risk of fuelling suspicion about him, harming the image of his brands and weakening the employees who give them life.’
Mr Arnault has transferred his 31 per cent stake in Groupe Arnault, the family holding that controls LVMH, to Pilinvest, a Belgian firm that he specifically set up for the purpose.
The stake is worth around 5.5 billion pounds, and Mr Arnault insists he wants to keep it in the hands of his five children after he dies.
He has established a structure destined to prevent any of them selling their shares in the event of his death.
Critics have attacked him for leaving the country associated with all the brands which made his fortune – including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Guerlain, Moet & Chandon champagne and Hennessy cognac
It is believed he is trying to avoid taxes including a 75 per cent top rate on income being introduced by President Francois Hollande
A source close to him said the structure was lawful in Belgium, but would not be so in France.
‘He has got two obsessions – controlling his group and ensuring that it survives him,’ said the source.
Earlier this year, Hollywood star Gerard Depardieu became another high-profile Frenchman moving his assets abroad
The Belgian Office of Foreigners has suggested it might block Mr Arnault’s request for a passport, but the final decision will be taken by the Brussels parliament.
Belgium has a much more lenient tax regime than France – raising an inheritance tax of three per cent, compared to11 per cent in France. Unlike France, there is no wealth tax in Belgium either.
Mr Arnault is also likely to be concerned by Mr Hollande’s plan to bring capital gains tax in line with income tax – effectively raising it from 19 per cent to 45 per cent, and possibly to 75 per cent if the Socialist President goes through with his threat to make that the top income tax rate for earnings over €1 million a year.
Earlier this year, Hollywood star Gerard Depardieu became another high-profile Frenchman moving his assets abroad.
The Green Card and Cyrano de Bergerac card obtained a Russian passport, bought a house in Belgium, and put his multi-million pounds Paris town house on the market.