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FB Roundup: Bernard Arnault, Philip Ndegwa, Harpal Randhawa

FB Roundup: Bernard Arnault, Philip Ndegwa, Harpal Randhawa
In this week’s FB Roundup, Bernard Arnault is investigated for alleged financial links to a Russian businessman; Kenya’s Ndegwa family expands its empire with new deals; and tributes are paid to Indian billionaire Harpal Randhawa.
By Glen Ferris
Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault investigated for alleged financial links to Russian businessman
Financial transactions between Bernard Arnault, the chairman of luxury goods giant LVMH and current second richest person in the world, and Russian businessman Nikolai Sarkisov are being investigated by the Paris prosecutor’s office following property purchases in the French Alps.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, citing the Tracfin financial intelligence unit, Sarkisov bought property at the ski resort of Courchevel following a loan from one of Arnault’s companies.

Le Monde reports that the 55-year-old younger brother of billionaire Sergei Sarkisov, who oversees the largest clients at his family-owned insurance company RESO-Garantiy, had acquired 14 properties from a single seller in 2018 for £13.9 million in a deal involving companies registered across France, Luxembourg and Cyprus.

French prosecutors have stated that potentially suspicious financial transactions between Arnault and Sarkisov have been added to a preliminary inquiry which was launched in 2022, following investigations by Tracfin, which is part of the French justice system focused on combating money laundering.

As reported by The Financial Times, a lawyer for Arnault has called the allegations of potential money laundering, “absurd and groundless”.

Le Monde reports that “Arnault had allegedly been involved in a series of complex real estate transactions with the Russian in 2018 in Courchevel, where Arnault learned to ski as a child and currently owns the luxury Cheval Blanc hotel.”

“The operation carried out to expand the Cheval Blanc hotel in Courchevel is completely known about and was compliant with the law and done with the help of advisers. The investigation which is apparently underway will undoubtedly find that this is the case,” said Arnault’s lawyer Jacqueline Laffont in a statement.

“The transaction was managed by a small investment unit which invests professionally in European real estate,” said Sarkisov. “It consisted of acquiring flats in an old building in Courchevel from various private owners, with the view to sell them later to a developer once the entire building was bought out.

“All transactions were carried out by French companies, through French notaries by French lawyers on all sides. This was a usual real estate deal.”

Bernard Arnault, who has an estimated net worth of $164 billion (according to Bloomberg), is the owner of luxury goods firm LVMH, which was formed in a merger between fashion house Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy in 1987 and now owns brands including Christian Dior, Fendi, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Bulgari, Tiffany & Co and more.

Earlier this year, the 74-year-old Arnault appointed his eldest daughter, Delphine, to run Christian Dior, LVMH’s second-biggest brand, in a further management shakeup, having also recently assigned his eldest son, Antoine, to run the family-owned holding company Christian Dior SE.

Philip Ndegwa

Kenya’s Ndegwa family expands its empire with new deals
The heirs of Philip Ndegwa, the late economist, entrepreneur and patriarch of one of Kenya’s wealthiest families, are set to further expand their multi-billion empire as NCBA Group and ICEA Lion Group seek to combine control of their separate insurance and property firms.

NCBA Group, in which the Ndegwas hold a leading stake of 14.94%, have announced plans to buy an additional 66.67% in AIG Kenya Insurance Company Limited from an American multinational.

ICEA Lion Asset Management Limited, which is also majority-owned by the family, is similarly in the process of purchasing ownership of property fund ILAM Fahari I-Reit.

Once completed, the two buyouts will mark the latest in a series of deals involving firms in the family’s diversified portfolio, which includes manufacturing, real estate, logistics, insurance and banking.

According to Africa Business Insider, “the family’s strategy over the years has been defined by selling struggling assets and pursuing mergers and acquisitions in sectors with high-growth potential.”

Following the passing of Philip Ndegwa in 1996, his family have expanded upon his legacy with significant stakes in some of corporate Kenya’s biggest deals through their investment vehicle, First Chartered Securities, including the acquisition of additional shares in NCBA Group to become the bank’s top shareholder.

Harpal Randhawa

Tributes paid to Indian billionaire Harpal Randhawa
Indian billionaire Harpal Randhawa and his son have been confirmed as being among six individuals killed when their private plane crashed near a diamond mine in southwestern Zimbabwe after experiencing a technical fault, according to a report by The Hindu Business Line.

Randhawa, the owner of diversified mining company RioZim, was confirmed among the passengers after the company-owned Cessna 206 aircraft crashed in the Zvamahande area of Harare.

RioZim said it was working with relevant authorities to gather more information. Names of the deceased are yet to be released by police but journalist and filmmaker Hopewell Chinono, who was a friend of Randhawa, confirmed his death.

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Harpal Randhawa, the owner of RioZim who died today in a plane crash in Zvishavane,” he said on social media platform X. “Five other people including his son, who was also a pilot but a passenger on this flight, also died in the crash.

“My thoughts are with his wife, family, friends and the RioZim community.”

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