Paris Society : Laurent de Gourcuff sentenced. €150000 fine
On 8 February 2024, depending on the decision handed down by the Paris Court, we will know a little more about the impact of an invitation to a restaurant. Two executives, Fabrice Favetto-Bon (ex-France Galop) and Pablo Nakhé Cerruti (ex-Viparis) were at the heart of decisions that led to them and Laurent de Gourcuff being indicted or 'exfiltrated' from the company that employed them. There are terraces where you shouldn't be invited, during consultations or selection of service providers.
A large proportion of the turnover of many companies is linked to contracts, concessions and tenders. Lobbying, technical responses, social best bid clauses, invitations to restaurants, infiltration of the competitor's premises to find out in advance what the technical or pricing response will be - what is permitted, what is legal? The question is not insignificant: the Paris City Council alone awards concessions, via invitations to tender, to more than 36,000 venues or establishments, which earn it more than 293 million euros a year in fees.
The Paris public prosecutor's office has requested a twelve-month suspended prison sentence for Laurent de Gourcuff, the founder of Noctis Event, now Paris Society, as well as a fine and a five-year management ban. On 12 January 2018, in order to win a call for tenders at the Paris Longchamp racecourse, the entrepreneur allegedly invited the marketing director of France Galop to the restaurant, thereby obtaining confidential information. He then allegedly paid the bill for a birthday dinner for the manager's wife, who had invited 9 guests.
In addition to Laurent de Gourcuff, two other people will be watching tomorrow's decision with interest: Fabrice Favetto-Bon, the former marketing director of France Galop. The latter is still working in the hospitality sector, and not just anywhere (see below).
And Pablo Nakhé Cerruti, ex-general manager of Viparis.
At the end of 2022, Viparis, a subsidiary of Unibail Rodamco, entrusted Paris Society with the responsibility of creating a restaurant within the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild. La Baronne, as it is called, will open soon. But this decision and this choice have also enraged the founder of the Moma Group, Benjamin Patou, who had already failed in the previous call for tenders and was often the loser in confrontations of this type that pitted him against Noctis Event.
At the time, his company was the concession holder for the prestigious venue, for catering activities linked to an event. A few months after this award, and after Benjamin Patou had been loudly angered by it, the general manager of Viparis left his post, officially for personal reasons. His name is Pablo Nakhé Cerruti.
A one-year suspended prison sentence was requested by the public prosecutor for Mr Favetto-Bon. A similar sentence, together with a fine of €50,000 and a five-year management ban, was requested against Laurent de Gourcuff. The Public Prosecutor considered that the two protagonists had acted illegally by maintaining informal contacts during the call for tenders.
Laurent de Gourcuff has already admitted to cheating. He is said to have passed his baccalauréat after being given an earpiece during the exams. This incident led him to pay back the second-hand car that his mother gave him for his BAC.
To be or not to be invited.
In a technical note published in 2020, the AFA, the French Anti-Corruption Agency, recommends that a person who has been invited should consider the following points:
What is the approximate value of the goods being offered to me?
Is the gift or invitation being offered as a courtesy or on a commercial basis, or with a view to obtaining something in return? When are they offered?
Would I make the same decision if I did not accept the gift or invitation?
The notice, it should be noted, is aimed at managers of associations, EPICs and public authorities. However, a recent ruling by the Criminal Division of the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation), dated 10 January 2024, indicates that similar facts may be reproached in invitations to tender issued by private companies. When the latter intervene as part of a public service delegation or mission.
Bad buzz in business and cash recovery
The possible conviction of one or both of the protagonists would not have a dramatic impact on the day-to-day management of Paris Society, in which Accor is now the sole shareholder: a managing director, Sébastien Pacault, has been in place for a long time.
But for the group and Laurent de Gourcuff, who both benefit from extensive media coverage whenever they open an establishment (on average two or three articles in Paris Match per year and many other design titles), there would be a slight whiff of favouritism. For Fabrice Favetto-Bon, now managing director of an exclusive supplier to Paris 2024, it's the same polenta, as the Savoyards say. We tried to contact him over the last few days to get his point of view. In England, where phone calls are answered when we try to contact On Location, no one has the CEO's email address. The Managing Director is therefore not easy to invite to the restaurant.
You have to smile a little at these twists and turns, or not: a supplier to Noctis Event, manager of the Paris-Longchamp brasserie, has been awaiting payment of his invoice since 27 July 2023. 165 days late for payment. This type of information can be found on the website of a little-known but clever recruitment agency. Rubypayeur publicises unpaid bills. The practice of name and shame as a way of cleaning up business is not a bad one.
The last time we saw this practice in action, it was for the payment of an invoice claimed by a Onepoint service provider, managed by Monsieur Plus. David Layani. Letting people know on Linkedin that you're not paid works, as long as your debtor regularly promotes himself or shares his enlightened views on the meaning of life. They don't want a reputation as a bad payer to linger.
The end of the duel?
Tomorrow we'll find out whether the feud between Benjamin Patou and Laurent de Gourcuff is motivated solely by the former's resentment. In a very nice film released this year, Une affaire d'honneur, (by Vincent Pérez) we learn that there was a time when duels were used to settle these conflicts. The practice has since disappeared. The last known duel took place in 1967, between Gaston Defferre and René Ribière. The SFIO deputy and mayor of Marseille had called the Gaullist deputy a moron in the National Assembly.
Where are they now?
Fabrice Favetto-Bon is now Managing Director France of On Location, the exclusive hospitality provider for Paris 2024. On Location, a subsidiary of Endeavor, has been selected by the IOC as the exclusive supplier and service provider for 2021. It would provide unique experiential hospitality services, according to the press release issued at the time.
Pablo Nakhé Cerruti is currently officially unemployed. He has not been charged by the courts.