French billionaire moves to Belgium to save empire

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Arnault, Europe’s richest man, has single-handedly built the LVMH fashion goods empire and is determined to prevent its break-up due to succession issues. He mains that his plans to change nationality are not simply to avoid new French taxes on the rich. He insists he will remain fiscally domiciled in France.

Arnault controls LVMH through a myriad of companies, has set up a private foundation in Belgium, called Protectinvest, which will prevent his five children from selling LVMH shares when he dies. He wants to prevent the empire he has constructed over 30 years, which includes brands such as Christian Dior, Dom Pérignon champagne and Louis Vuitton bags, from being split up.

Protectinvest was in fact set up in December 2008, well before the new French tax regime was being mooted.

The foundation would prevent the Arnault children from selling their shares until 2023, by which time Mr Arnault’s youngest child would be 25 and could take the reins of the empire. 

Protectinvest will only become operational when the billionaire dies and would be run by a committee of three people, headed by Thierry Breton, a trusted friend and former French finance minister.

Bernard Arnault’s application  for Belgian nationality has been turned down by the Belgian authorities on the basis that he has not lived in Belgium for the customary three years. A final decision on this case is in the hands of a parliamentary committee.