Sep 11, 2012
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Belgian tycoon denies link to LVMH chief's nationality bid

Sep 11, 2012

PARIS - Belgium's richest man Albert Frere denied in an interview published Tuesday that a move by French billionaire and LVMH boss Bernard Arnault to acquire Belgian nationality was linked to him.

"My succession has been settled since 1982," Frere told France's Le Figaro newspaper, and there was no ongoing joint "concrete" project he said, squashing speculation that Arnault's bid was related to his investment empire.

Albert Frere and Bernard Arnault attend the Christian Dior Spring/Summer 2007-2008 Haute Couture fashion show during Paris Fashion Week. / Photo: Corbis

"We have worked on joint investment projects in the past and we were very pleased," Frere said.

"Bernard Arnault's move could perhaps revive this but for the present, we have no concrete project together."

Arnault, the world's fourth-richest man whose fortune Forbes magazine estimates at $41 billion, said he was seeking Belgian nationality but denied it was prompted by French President Francois Hollande's move to impose a 75-percent tax on top earners.

Arnault has rejected criticism he was being anti-patriotic, insisting he was not becoming a tax exile and said his bid for Belgian nationality was for personal reasons.

Frere also denied speculation that Arnault would invest in his companies.

"We don't need that to work together," he said. "Our friendship goes back 30 years and our families are very close."

Arnault and Frere together own the famed Chateau Cheval Blanc winery near Bordeaux.

Frere, who has three children, also said he had to respect the wishes of the Canadian business family Desmarais.

Frere and Canadian investor Paul Desmarais co-founded the Swiss holding company Pargesa, around which the investment empire is built.

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