* Anti-globalisation campaigner attacks EU austerity drive
* Montebourg feuded with foreign CEOs, intervened in deals
* He stopped Yahoo buying French online video-sharing firm
* Some believe he helps to keep support of left wing voters
By Nicholas Vinocur
PARIS, April 2 Leftist Arnaud Montebourg, known
for attacking big business and the European Commission, reaped a
political harvest on Wednesday when he was put in charge of an
enlarged economy and industry ministry in a choice that may
unnerve Brussels and Berlin.
The anti-globalisation campaigner with film star looks was
one of the winners in a shakeup that saw President Francois
Hollande name former interior minister Manuel Valls as prime
minister after his Socialist Party was routed in local
Montebourg has been the most outspoken member of Hollande's
team, a champion of protectionism who has openly accused the
European Union executive of strangling Europe's economy with
austerity policies he says are misguided.
"I think we have the chance to succeed, to succeed by
pushing Europe in a new direction, because for now it is Europe
that is pushing us toward austerity," he told France Inter radio
on Tuesday. "What we need is pragmatism and to change the ideas
of the Commission."
His elevation may also be unwelcome for German Chancellor
Angela Merkel. Montebourg has compared her with Otto von
Bismarck, the 19th century chancellor who unified Germany with
an iron fist.
At the helm of the Ministry for Industrial Renewal since
2012, Montebourg has drawn fire from business leaders and some
allies for his public feuds with foreign CEOs and interventions
into business affairs.
The 51-year-old bachelor told Lakshmi Mittal, the
Indian-born chief executive of the ArcelorMittal steel group,
that he was not welcome in France. Montebourg also drew much
attention in international media for his exchange of acerbic
letters with Texan tyre executive Maurice Taylor.
He intervened last year to prevent Yahoo buying a
majority stake in French online video-sharing champion
Dailymotion from incumbent telecoms operator Orange,
in which the state owns a 28.4 percent stake.
And in a recent sortie, Montebourg openly favoured an offer
by construction and telecom giant Bouygues to acquire
mobile operator SFR over rival Numericable,
hours before a bid deadline was due to expire and while shares
in all the firms were trading.
But despite accusations that Montebourg is a liability for
the business community and an embarrassment to the government,
he has consolidated his role as a champion of French industrial
interests against unregulated capitalism.
Author of a book advocating "deglobalisation", he was the
best known abroad of the 35 ministers in Hollande's first
government, overshadowing the more circumspect Finance Minister
Pierre Moscovici, who has been dumped.
He won exposure with his "Made in France" campaigning,
modeling a blue-and-white hooped fisherman's jersey on posters
to promote French-made goods.
Some critics in government argue that Montebourg is a
necessary nuisance, whose provocative positions help to keep the
support of left-wing voters who might otherwise defect to
populist parties on the far left or extreme right.
When Montebourg offered to resign in 2012 after a public
clash with Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault over the closure of
a Mittal steel plant, Hollande turned him down.
Ayrault quit on Monday after the Socialist election defeat.
Montebourg's rise to prominence as a politician took a
different path from that of other government ministers.
A lawyer by training who won distinctions for eloquence as a
student, he failed to gain admission to the elite ENA civil
service school and worked his way up the ranks of the Socialist
Party, winning election in his home Saone-et-Loire region.
His break in national politics came in 2011 when he came a
strong third in a Socialist primary for the 2012 presidential
election. Hollande rewarded Montebourg for his support against
conservative Nicolas Sarkozy by giving him the industry
portfolio, a difficult task due to factory closures and heavy
blue-collar job losses.
In his first months in the job, Montebourg repeatedly sided
with trade unions against chief executives over the closures of
a Peugeot factory near Paris and blast furnaces
operated by ArcelorMittal in eastern France.
In both cases Montebourg attacked the bosses in public and
ended up losing his fight while suffering criticism.
His latest action against Numericable - whose Franco-Israeli
chief executive he criticised for paying his taxes in
Switzerland - hints at a change in strategy from siding with
unions to picking corporate champions.
(Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Paul Taylor and