“Get lost, you rich jerk!” That was the message for billionaire Bernard Arnault splashed on the front page of France’s left-leaning daily Libération this week, said Nicholas Vinocur in Reuters.com. Arnault, the head of the LVMH luxury empire and the world’s fourth-richest man—with a fortune estimated at $41 billion—sparked a political firestorm last week by announcing that he was seeking Belgian citizenship along with his existing French passport. The news came just a day before French President François Hollande finalized plans to impose a 75 percent tax on French millionaires. Arnault denied that his move was an effort to dodge the tax man and launched a lawsuit against Libération for insulting him. “I am and will remain a tax resident in France,” he said, citing business and personal reasons for his application.
That explanation “was dismissed as absurdly unconvincing in both Belgium and France,” said John Lichfield in The Independent (U.K.). Arnault “has no Belgian blood or family ties,” and the richest man in France “can already invest in Belgium as much as he likes.” Several outlets speculated that he might be laying the groundwork for eventually dropping his French citizenship to move to Monaco, where Belgians live tax-free.