To Be or Not To Be?

LVMH, heard of it?  It’s a French brand group that includes Christian Dior.  Familiar now, huh? Well, just recently it’s chairman and the world’s fourth richest man, Bernard Arnault, is applying for Belgian citizenship.

Why?  He says for personal reasons but speculation is that he simply wants to avoid paying higher taxes that the Libération newspaper carried a headline:  “Get lost, rich jerk”.  This prompted Arnault to sue the newspaper he described having a vulgar and violent headline.

Libération newspaper controversial cover.

This is no simple gossip of the wealthy but a critical development for a country who’s known for its flair yet is currently trying to get out of a hole.

Ok, although Arnault says the reason is personal and the plan was simmering even months ago – the timing makes the desire controversial;  as it’s in line with French president François Hollande’s plan for a 75 per cent tax rate on France’s wealthiest.

Possible negatives?  Well, not really a loss on taxes unless Arnault completely drops his French citizenship then worse, maybe capital flight and job losses could even follow.  But more so, there’s that negative connotation it could have on potential talents and investors.  And lastly, a stained brand.  It may or may not translate into dollars but it would tag Arnault as a betrayer of confidence, like unmindfully jumping off a plane just because he has a parachute.  Having that mark, people would think that he might do the same to Belgium, or to any other country he seeks nationality.

On the positive side, for one, Arnault’s desire could fuel unity and deeper patriotism.  And two, the French people could have found a new sense to entrepreneurship, hard work and self-reliance which are even more crucial at these times.

Hence, to be or not to be?

If he really intends to be Belgian, he better check the number of possible consumers on each country as to how many are patriotic; it’s a plus and minus thing, then be prepared to lose the patriotic segment, notwithstanding the “hate” mark.

Nonetheless, if he intends to keep his citizenship as solely French, he better meet with the people of the Libération newspaper and have a press conference – make up.  As well as with the French president.  It’d be good for France and its future as it would lift morale and investor confidence.

See, even with freedom of speech and press, the headline was indeed a bit vulgar.  However, it’s also a natural reaction for patriotic souls whether or not they knew the consequences – as Arnault subsequently sued Libération.  Yet, Arnault should also understand that he is a key figure in France and that he was even just promoted to Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honour last 14 July 2011; thus, he is expected to be patriotic, otherwise, he should expect to get more “vulgar” reactions all over France.

Bottom line is – he’s France’s richest, so why not just quietly help out?  Be an example – the Grand Officer that you should be for your countrymen.  Anyway, as Hollande says “once the economy has recovered, it can be dropped” – referring to the tax plan that could be scrapped after two years.

If he doubts, do it in writing – and include suggestions on government spending or assistance not mainly favorable to him alone but specially to revenue generating institutions and promising entrepreneurs who are struggling, and to the rest of the French people.

What’s your take?