Monday, January 21, 2013

Former President Seeks Employment--in London

According to Mediapart, Nicolas Sarkozy is seeking, with help from his éminence grise Alain Minc, to set up an investment fund with a capital of €1 billion. It will be based in ... London. Guizot admonished the French, Enrichissez-vous. Sarkozy says simply, Enrichissez-moi. He hopes to make good on his promise to make money by enlisting investors from around the world, including Asian and Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds. If the reports are true, his actions will raise a storm of protest and a host of questions about conflicts of interest, the ultimate in insider information, and legal thickets. Can a principal in an investment fund sit on the Constitutional Council, for instance?

As always with Sarkozy, his move is not lacking in audacity and even a certain shrewdness. As investment prospectuses standardly warn, however, "Past performance is no guarantee of future success." Nor is past failure necessarily a harbinger of future disaster. But Sarkozy would be entering uncharted territory here, and I'm not sure that people with money to invest will see him as the ideal advisor on where to invest it. His name may open some doors, but his reputation for impetuosity, lack of attention to detail, and failure to follow through in dealing with practical complexities may close others.

One thing has to be said about Sarkozy, though: he does have a gift for generating headlines, even when, as in this case, he might prefer not to.