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FB Roundup: Rodolphe Saade, Amancio Ortega, Michael Steinhard

In this week’s FB Roundup, Shipping billionaire Rodolphe Saade opposes a French windfall tax plan; Zara founder Amancio Ortega buys a luxury New York apartment building for $500 million; and ancient artifacts seized from US billionaire Michael Steinhardt are returned to Italy.
Rodolphe Saade, the billionaire head of multi-generational family-owned shipping giant CMA CGM SA.

Shipping billionaire Rodolphe Saade opposes French windfall tax plan
Rodolphe Saade, the billionaire head of multi-generational family-owned shipping giant CMA CGM SA, has vocally opposed a plan by French lawmakers to impose a windfall tax on corporate profits to moderate the impact of inflation.

CMA CGM SA, the world’s third-largest container carrier, has seen its profits rise dramatically following strong global demand for consumer goods resulting in shipping rates being raised more than ten-fold during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are putting money on the table and it’s not only charity. We are helping consumers,” Saade told a French senate hearing in Paris. “What I want is that we stop looking at CMA CGM and we start looking at my competitors.”

French lawmakers are calling for a temporary “Superprofits” tax of up to 25% from energy and transport firms, including CMA CGM, TotalEnergies SE and Engie SA.

“When my freight rates were at $350, where were you?” Saade said to the senate of his firm which operates around 580 vessels. “We weren’t sure at one point if we would get through the week. No one came to speak with us or say something. We had to figure it out.”

In an inflation-busting measure imposed by the French government, CMA CGM had previously agreed to cut shipping rates by $510 per container on consumer goods imported via French ports as well as France’s overseas territories.

“Some are talking about a recession, I would speak more of a soft landing,” Saade said of his expectations of a gradual slowdown in global trade. “This will normalise trade and necessarily lower prices of freight.”

Zara founder Amancio Ortega buys luxury New York apartment building for $500 million
Amancio Ortega, the Spanish billionaire founder of Inditex (the global fashion retailer which counts Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, and others amongst its brands) has acquired the 19 Dutch apartment building in New York’s Financial District in an estimated $500 million deal.

Ortega’s family office Pontegadea confirmed the purchase of the 64-floor luxury apartment complex, according to trade publication The Real Deal. This is the latest in a swathe of high-profile property purchases following the acquisition of Scotland’s biggest new office building, 177 Bothwell Street, for $237 million in May and Toronto’s Royal Bank Plaza for around $916.88 million in January.

Pontegadea mainly deals with commercial and residential real-estate deals funded by the 86-year-old businessman’s 59 per cent stake in Inditex.

Ortega, who is Spain’s wealthiest person and the 23rd-richest person in the world with a $48.5 billion fortune (according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index), has also recently been

diversifying into infrastructure with a stake in an undersea telecoms cable company, electricity and gas networks in Spain and Portugal, and a renewable energy project with global power firm Repsol.

Ancient artifacts seized from US billionaire Michael Steinhardt returned to Italy
Dozens of artifacts confiscated from US billionaire Michael Steinhardt by US officials are among a host of stolen antiquities worth nearly $14 million that are being repatriated to Italy.

142 items, of which more than a third were previously owned by the former hedge fund manager were handed back to Italian officials. The seizure took place after Steinhardt admitted that he purchased works without seeing evidence of their ownership history

In December last year, the Manhattan District Attorney's office seized 180 items from the 81-year-old money management guru in a deal that allowed him to avoid prosecution over the looted collection worth an estimated $70 million.

Among the returned artifacts was a 2,000-year-old fresco depicting an infant Hercules strangling a snake worth an estimated $1 million, which was looted from an archaeological site near Mount Vesuvius in 1995.

“[Steinhardt] displayed a rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts without concern for the legality of his actions, the legitimacy of the pieces he bought and sold or the grievous cultural damage he wrought across the globe,” said Manhattan’s then-District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. upon the investigation’s conclusion in December.

“These artifacts deserve a place in their homeland, where the people of Italy can jointly appreciate the marvels of their country's past,” said Manhattan district attorney Alvin L. Bragg Jr. last week. “There are far too many important cultural artifacts being illegally looted and trafficked across the globe.”

Steinhardt’s lawyers, Andrew J. Levander and Theodore V. Wells Jr., stated that their client was pleased that the investigation had concluded without any charges “And that items wrongfully taken by others will be returned to their native countries.”

Other seized objects from Steinhardt’s collection, including statues, sculptures, ceremonial vessels, death masks and a helmet thought to have belonged to Alexander The Great’s father, have since been returned countries including Iraq, Israel and Turkey.

No further charges are expected to be filed but a previous and “unprecedented” lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities will be upheld.

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