Bernard Arnault, second-gen chief executive of LVMH and France's richest man, has withdrawn his application for Belgian citizenship following continued accusations that he was trying to avoid the new 75% tax levied on incomes of more than €1 million.
"I explained several times that I would remain a resident in France and that I would continue to pay my taxes there. In vain – the message did not get through," Arnault told French newspaper Le Monde in an interview on 10 April.
He added: "Today. I have decided to clear any ambiguity. I am withdrawing my demand for Belgian citizenship."
Arnault always maintained he was trying to protect LVMH from possible break up after his death. The 64-year-old set up a Belgian-based holding company in 2011, which was designed to stop his family members selling shares should he die in the next 10 years. Arnault said France did not have the legal framework for such a structure.
Arnault added in the Le Monde article that the negative press about LVMH was the main reason for withdrawing his application. "As LVMH and all its brands represent France throughout the world, this debate could affect the image it presents. There is an incompatibility between this debate and the values of our business."
He also pointed out that LVMH pays almost half of all its taxes in France, even though it generates 90% of its revenues abroad, claiming that LVMH was an exception in this regard among international conglomerates.
He said that the French did not understand the importance of entrepreneurs and condemned wealth.
"Growth can only come from the decisions from individual business leaders. In France, whether the government is left or right wing, [entrepreneurs] are viewed relatively poorly. We [the French] like footballers, not chief executives."