In mid-December, some of Europe’s best-connected businessmen gathered in Paris to discuss a highly sensitive project: Nicolas Sarkozy’s entry into the world of private equity.
Seven months after the former French president lost power, he and his closest advisers were casting around for a new direction for his post-Elysée life that would parlay his political experience into a more lucrative career.
- Mr Sarkozy, who has spent virtually all his professional life in politics, has long made no secret of his desire to make money after leaving office. While he began to raise his profile as a speaker at conferences, one idea had started to coalesce in his inner circle – a project that would take advantage of his close connections with a deep pool of capital far from the arrondissements of Paris in the deserts of Qatar.
The proposal was to set up a private equity fund backed by the Qatar Investment Authority, the $100bn sovereign wealth fund, that would invest in “European reconstruction” – companies in continental Europe, with a particular emphasis on Spain.
The project looked promising: Mr Sarkozy had received a letter of intent from the QIA to commit €250m to the private equity fund, according to four people with knowledge of the pledge. It even had a mooted name, Columbia Investments. It would have an office in London in which the former president would visit one or two days a week, according to a person familiar with the matter.
However, three months later, his private equity project is now in limbo.