Escape To Belgium, Escape To Singapore

LVMHVery wealthy entrepreneurs leaving their country of origin strikes a chord, especially here in France but the differences with how the media react to similar phenomena is frankly scary.

The chief executive and controlling shareholder of French luxury company LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (MC.FR)  Bernard Arnault, decided he wants to live in Belgium, to be clear that’s 3 hrs by car from Paris. It’s like coming back from the Hamptons on Sunday, if you’re into that… Bernard probably has other means of transportation, but still. (reuters) Mr. Arnault is one of France’s richest citizens and one of their most successful entrepreneurs. (wikipedia) He’s even received the French Legion of Honour.

From Reuters:

“Get lost, you rich jerk!” said a front-page headline in the left-leaning Liberation daily, next to a picture of Arnault smiling in front of an overnight travel bag.

Arnault announced in a lawyer’s statement he was suing Liberation for public insult over the headline, calling it vulgar and violent.

Leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon told RTL radio that France did not need such “parasites” and Socialist lawmaker Bruno Le Roux said Arnault was “betraying France’s recovery”.

“When you love France, you don’t leave when the weather turns bad!” Harlem Desir, national secretary of the Socialist Party, wrote in a Twitter message.

Union leaders accused Arnault of profiting from French workers only to take his wealth across the border.

In America’s case it’s Eduardo Saverin, one of Facebook’s co-founders. He’s going to Singapore, a bit farther a field.

From Bloomberg: (May 12th, 2012)

Saverin, 30, joins a growing number of people giving up U.S. citizenship ahead of a possible increase in tax rates for top earners. The Brazilian-born resident of Singapore is one of several people who helped Mark Zuckerberg start Facebook in a Harvard University dormitory and stand to reap billions of dollars after the world’s largest social network holds its IPO.

“Eduardo recently found it more practical to become a resident of Singapore since he plans to live there for an indefinite period of time,” said Tom Goodman, a spokesman for Saverin, in an e-mailed statement.

Notice anything different about the tone of these articles? In the US, the IRS is looking into every detail and probably doing it’s best attempt at blackmail, but that’s unlikely to play out in the press. The French will use any means necessary to run a rich guy through the mud, not because he’s leaving or unpatriotic, but because, it’s his fault.

I don’t think anyone in the US blames Eduardo Saverin for the financial crisis, if anything Americans are blaming the government for scaring him away. In hindsight, and after the Facebook IPO fiasco, I’m curious if Eduardo is having second thoughts. In any case, one major difference is that Bernard Arnault is NOT obligated to renounce his citizenship, and he’s of course still just a short drive from Paris Plage.