Secrets, lies and betrayals: diving into the intrigues of billionaires

Two books published almost simultaneously offer us the unique opportunity to penetrate a world that ordinary mortals do not know, or else fantasy, caricature, even demonize: that of great fortunes.

Who are they, how do they live, what do they really want? Are they the benefactors of the people or on the contrary their enemy? How do they preserve their fortune, how do they pass it on? All of these questions, and many more, are answered in these two books.

Historian, Fabrice d’Almeida embraces the broad spectrum, and achieves a difficult tour de force: telling the great story of the rich, from the aristocrats before the industrial revolution to the green billionaires of the 21st century, but also the individual story high in color of the most emblematic rich people in history, including John Davison Rockefeller, the greatest of all, builder of land, industrial and financial fortune.

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Beyond that, Fabrice d’Almeida delivers a real reflection on the place of the rich in our societies… with hatred, often, as a reversal of fortune: hatred between the rich, of course, but also hatred of the masses, who see a homogeneous and organized social class where one should only see personal adventures. Apart from money, no great fortune is similar to another, he assures.

His dream: an individualization to which the tax and social treatment to which the rich are subject should adapt. For those who are useful to the community, the size of their assets should no longer be a problem. No tolerance, however, for those who cheat and pollute. Attractive on paper, but how to apply it?

The difficult succession

Vanessa Schneider and Raphaëlle Bacqué, both great reporters at Worldconfirm it: each wealthy family is unique, and the organization of this delicate moment that is the succession is generally less a matter of money than of feelings and emotions against a background of family neuroses.

It is that the task is delicate. Choose among your children, with the eye of the boss evaluating the future manager, the one who will replace you at the head of the empire, therefore admitting that you are replaceable yourself, therefore mortal.

From all these succession sagas, it appears that some are successful (Decaux, Hermès, Pinault), others sadder (Lagardère), or full of twists and turns (at Bouygues where it is ultimately the outsider who wins). The dive into each family is breathtaking: with the Arnaults, trained since childhood like racehorses, with the Seydoux, where no one finds favor in the eyes of the patriarch, in the clan apart from the Mulliez, or in the heart of the duel mother-daughter at the Bettencourts.

All the actors in these two books are very rich. Not that many are happy…

world history of the richBy Fabrice d’Almeida. plon, 435 p., €22.90.Express rating 4/5

EstatesBy Raphaëlle Bacqué and Vanessa Schneider.

Albin Michael, 235 p., €20.90.

Express rating 4/5


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Secrets, lies and betrayals: diving into the intrigues of billionaires