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France - Jean Sarkozy nepotism scandal

Sarkozy’s son tipped to run La Defense business park

Article published on the 2009-10-13 Latest update 2009-10-16 12:27 TU

Jean Sarkozy attends a ceremony marking General Charles de Gaulle's call for the French resistence, June 18 2009.(Photo: AFP)

Jean Sarkozy attends a ceremony marking General Charles de Gaulle's call for the French resistence, June 18 2009.
(Photo: AFP)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 23-year-old son Jean has been manoeuvred into the top position at La Defense, Europe’s largest business district, drawing cries of nepotism.

“What qualifications does Jean Sarkozy have besides being his father’s son?” asked Socialist Party heavyweight Arnaud Montebourg, after the nomination was announced.

Former Socialist Prime Minister Laurent Fabius said with not a little irony that for “Europe’s biggest business district… we need a very good legal expert, and Monsieur Sarkozy is already in his second year of law school. That’s a very, very impressive qualification.”

Jean Sarkozy, who yet to complete a university degree, is all but assured of being elected to the presidency of Epad, the public corporation that runs the La Defense office park, after his candidacy was endorsed by his father’s ruling UMP party.

Epad brings in more than 1 billion euros a year, and has plans to triple the size of La Defense, a cluster of office sky-scrapers to the west of Paris.

“Whatever I say, whatever I do, I’ll be criticised for it,” Jean Sarkozy, who only recently cut his long blond hair into a more respectable serious style, said Monday night in an interview with the Le Parisien newspaper.

On Tuesday, UMP officials rallied to the young Sarkozy’s defence.

“The political scene is made up of people who started very young, very early, without having too many diplomas, and we’re lucky because this acts as a social elevator,” said UMP spokesperson Dominique Paillé.

“Jean is the son of a political genius, so it’s not surprising that he’s precocious,” said UMP regional counsellor Thierry Solère.

“I can tell you that Jean Sarkozy, at 23, might just have more talent than his father did at his age,” UMP official Patrick Balkany said.

Sarcastic endorsements have proliferated online. The twitter feed jeansarkozypartout or “Jean Sarkozy is everywhere” sprung up Monday night, with comments like Florent Latrive's: “Jean Sarkozy, candidate for L'Académie française”, referring to the French-language council of wise men, or Bertrand Lenotre's “Jean Sarkozy is chosen as the model for the next bust of Marianne,” an honour already bestowed upon French beauties Catherine Deneuve and Letitia Casta.

Jean Sarkozy, the younger of Nicolas Sarkozy’s two sons from his first marriage, came onto the political scene two years ago when he was elected to the municipal council of Neuilly-sur-Seine, the posh Parisian suburb where his father began his political career when he too was only in his twenties.

Responding to criticisms that he was overly ambitious, Jean said at the time that he was “only there to learn.”

Six months later, he was elected to the head of the UMP’s legislative group in the regional council of the Hauts-de-Seine region.

The current head of Epad, veteran politician Patrick Devedjian, is stepping down because of his age. His successor will be selected by the Regional Council, which will chose among the company’s administrators.

Though Jean Sarkozy does not currently have a seat on the administrative council, one has conveniently opened up because its occupant was recently appointed to the national economic council by the French Presidency.