French tycoons in war of words over rich tax

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PARIS (AP) — A public dispute has broken out between two of Europe’s most prominent tycoons over a proposed French tax on the superrich.

Edouard de Rothschild, the multimillionaire stakeholder of French newspaper Liberation, is defending the daily’s stinging criticism of Europe’s richest man, who is seeking citizenship in Belgium, where taxes are lower.

Rothschild, a member of the prominent banking dynasty, said the headline that told Bernard Arnault — the CEO of fashion giant LVMH who’s worth an estimated $41 billion — to “Get lost, rich jerk” was a “beautiful marketing operation.”

It accused Arnault of trying to dodge the Socialist government’s planned 75 percent tax on the highest earners — a charge he vehemently denies.

Liberation compared Arnault to the “nobles and opulent bourgeois” hostile to the 1789 French Revolution who, in a bid to keep their fortune, regrouped outside of France.

Via LVMH Monday night, Arnault announced he’s suing the paper for “public insult” over the offending headline’s “vulgarity and brutality.”

In an obvious jibe at the fashion magnate — whose patriotism was publicly questioned by French President Francois Hollande over the weekend — Rothschild said he would pay taxes in France “wholeheartedly.”

“It seems to me that when the richest people are asked to make an ... effort of national solidarity, you agree to it,” he added. “I’m naturally concerned.”

The criticism had not gone unnoticed by Arnault’s many admirers in and around France.

“What I deplore is that nobody seems capable of first paying tribute to Bernard Arnault and what he did for our country,” said Laurence Parisot, president of the Movement of French Enterprises, today. “He is an exceptional business manager.”

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