Breakingviews - Capital Calls: Sarkozy trial leaves Accor in a fix

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, wearing a protective face mask, arrives for the verdict in his trial on charges of corruption and influence peddling, at Paris courthouse, France, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

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L’EXCEPTION FRANCAISE. Is there a precedent for having a convicted criminal on the board of a listed company? That’s the question facing Accor and Lagardère on Monday after former President Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of trying to bribe a judge and sentenced to three years in prison. The man dubbed “hyperpresident” is an independent director of the $11 billion Paris-listed hotel chain run by Sebastien Bazin. He also sits on the supervisory board of the $4 billion owner of Paris Match.

Complicating matters is Sarkozy’s close relationship with Qatar, whose sovereign wealth fund owns big stakes in both companies. In 2008 he granted tax breaks to one of the world’s richest states on French property assets. Still, Sarkozy can appeal. And with two years of his sentence suspended and the possibility of wearing an electronic bracelet for another year, he may escape jail time. That could make French boardroom drama even more interesting. (By Christopher Thompson)


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