BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgian industrialist Edouard-Jean Empain, a man whose vast business empire crumbled after he was brutally kidnapped in 1978, died at the age of 80 on Thursday, Belgian media reported.
The president of industrial conglomerate Schneider-Empain was snatched from his car in bright daylight by kidnappers in front of his home near Paris’ iconic Arc de Triomphe and kept for two months.
With a reported ransom request of 30-100 million French francs ($5.3 -$17.6 million), negotiations for his release hit a dramatic climax when investigators found his left little finger in a locker.
While Empain was gone, press speculation over the reasons of his kidnapping stirred up a string of theories including a gambling habit and extramarital affairs - allegations that he dismissed.
After his return, Empain fell out with his family and his businesses, which at the time employed some 120,000 people, declined. He retired in the early 1980s and lived away from public attention.
“The aftermath of my kidnapping was the most violent,” Empain told a French TV show in 2005. “If you return and all those close to you make allegations against you, while only two months earlier they adored you, it is brutal,” he added.
Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek