Posts from "June, 2015"

Eskenazi, Ferdman, Frame, Francois

Mr. Eskenazi’s new company provides a classic example of how

capitalism works in France, where a coterie of personal friends,

professional managers, senior civil servants and private

investors forge business alliances that link many of the

nation’s largest companies in a complex network of cross-shareholdings.

—Charles Fleming, The Wall Street Journal, 2/22/91, A7F.


27.   Eskenazi, Gerard   (1931-     )

Former chief operating officer of the French bank Paribas (on the right in photo above). When François Mitterrand and the socialists started to nationalize French companies after they swept into power in 1981, Eskenazi convinced Belgian industrialist Baron Albert Frère (on the left above) to invest $20 million in Pargesa, a Geneva shell company which then bought Paribas’ Swiss assets. The socialists were furious and Eskenazi resigned from Paribas. But this began a very fruitful business relationship between Frère and Eskenazi, who proceeded to buy controlling interests in some of Europe’s most powerful companies.

One of their first acquisitions was Groupe Bruxelles Lambert, Drexel Burnham Lambert’s biggest shareholder. Eskenazi, Frère, and Baron Léon Lambert all sat on Drexel’s board. Eskenazi was the financial wizard of the team, so it was he who sat down with Drexel’s “wunderkind” Mike Milken in 1986 to set up a European company called Transcapital, which was supposed to sell U.S. junk bonds to European investors. These plans came tumbling down after American speculator Ivan Boesky pleaded guilty to massive insider trading and started to implicate the high-flying securities firm Drexel in his crimes. (see #11 on my list)

After Drexel went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1990, Groupe Bruxelles Lambert wrote off its $91 million loss against its 1989 earnings. A rift soon developed between Eskenazi and Frère. This may have been because Frère thought that Eskenazi should have sought more control over Drexel, or because Frère did not like Eskenazi’s plan to renew his relationship with Paribas. Whatever the case, Frère and Canadian Financier Paul Desmarais raised their joint stake in Pargesa and froze Eskenazi out.

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Divis, Drummond, Dunand, Erikson


In the words of the Swiss prosecutor, the men’s core business was money- laundering. Everything else, it seems, was secondary.



23.  Diviš, Jiři   (1956-     )

Former Czech basketball player who immigrated to Switzerland in 1979 to study law at the University of Fribourg. After graduation, Diviš became an international business consultant. In the 1990’s, he began to advise his childhood friend, Luboš Mĕkota, Deputy Chairman of the giant Czech mining company Mostecká uhelná společnost, a.s. (MUS). In 1999, Diviš and six associates used the Fribourg company Appian Group to purchase a controlling interest in MUS.

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Dard, Dassault, DeVoe, Diouri


19.  Dard, Frederic “San-Antonio” (1921 – 2000)

Immensely popular French writer of comic detective novels. During his long career of over 50 years, Dard wrote 300 books with sales of 270 million, making him the best-selling French author of the second half of the 20th century. Dard moved to Switzerland with his second wife, Françoise, in 1968. Ten years later, he bought a dilapidated XVIII century farm in Bonnefontaine, FR. It was in this renovated farmhouse that “San-Antonio” wrote over 100 novels on his IBM electric typewriter—he apparently hated computers.


Dard typing in the cow pasture of his Fribourg farm “l’eau vive”

On his death, one of Dard’s admirers, French president Jacques Chirac, declared in a statement at the Élysée Palace: “Our language has lost one of its magicians, one of those who knew how to add to its colors, to its vividness, to its force.” Dard’s career has often been compared to the prolific body of work of the Belgian detective writer Georges Simenon—and in fact it was Simenon who became something of a mentor for Dard. Their detectives, however, were very different: Simenon’s ruminating “Maigret” with his bourgeois home-life contrasts sharply with Dard’s freewheeling “commissaire San-Antonio” and his assistant, the Rablaisian “inspector Berurier.”

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