Emmanuel Macron: the Mozart of finance plays a new tune

Largely unknown to the public just three years ago, Emmanuel Macron has undergone a rocket-powered ascent through France’s hidebound political system.

843_Profile-b

Emmanuel Macron: rocket-powered ascent

Ahead of an interview with French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron last month, The Sunday Times tracked down some of his friends. Three things were striking. "The first is that everyone says he is brilliant exceptional, talented, gifted. The second is that Macron is his own man, servant only to [his wife] Brigitte. He has left everyone else family and friends behind. The third is that he is as ambiguous as a 17th-century cardinal."

Macron claims to be leading a "transpartisan" movement that is "neither of the left nor the right". But that doesn't come close to describing his rocket-powered ascent through France's hidebound political system. Largely unknown to the public just three years ago, the 39-year-old En Marche! founder is hailed by fans as "a French JFK".

The astonishing "blaze of Macron's comet" has meant that his youthful experiences growing up in the northern city of Amiens have come under more than the usual scrutiny, says The Observer. However, it was his parents' decision to send their intellectually precocious son to school in Paris that put him on the academic fast-track. He went on to study philosophy at university and join France's ENA civil service school, says The New Yorker.

He then joined the French civil service before switching to Rothschild as an investment banker in 2008. "You're conscious that banking is not any kind of job? And Rothschild is not any kind of bank?" warned a friend. But Macron shrugged off these warnings, says the Financial Times, and learnt the ropes of debt restructuring and mergers and acquisitions, earning both a healthy 2.9m and the nickname "the Mozart of finance" for his role advising Nestl on its $12bn acquisition of a unit of Pfizer in 2012. His rival in the presidential race has consequently tried to paint him as the "candidate of finance".

His stroke of luck politically was meeting economist Jacques Attali an adviser to successive French presidents who was sufficiently impressed to introduce him to Socialist leader Franois Hollande. When Hollande became president in 2012, he made Macron his economic adviser. The pair fell out when Hollande refused to give him a ministerial post and there followed a brief period in the wilderness.

But in 2014, Macron returned in triumph to help rescue Hollande from the ruins of his economic strategy. When Macron launched En Marche! a year ago, Hollande was dismissive, but he clearly hadn't banked on Macron's winning formula of marrying youthful optimism with a centrist, pro-EU manifesto of "liberal structural reform", says The Sunday Times. Like Barack Obama, he peddled hope, "running En Marche! like a start-upfull of les jeunes tapping enthusiastically on MacBooks", and giving "speeches like TED talks".

"Win or lose, Macron has revolutionised French politics," says The Economist. Thanks to "a dream, a gamble and a heavy dose of luck", he may become the youngest-ever head of the Fifth Republic. "After that, the hard part begins."

Recommended

Larry Fink: the undisputed king of Wall Street
People

Larry Fink: the undisputed king of Wall Street

Larry Fink survived two big financial crises and went on to build a massive asset manager, doing for investing what Henry Ford did for cars. He has hi…
23 Oct 2021
Bernard Tapie: the man with a thousand lives
People

Bernard Tapie: the man with a thousand lives

Bernard Tapie, who has died aged 78, was a colourful French entrepreneur, star of screen and stage, politician, sports icon, press baron and convicted…
10 Oct 2021
Xu Jiayin: the tycoon behind Evergrande
People

Xu Jiayin: the tycoon behind Evergrande

Xu Jiayin became a wheeler-dealer in China’s muddled transition to capitalism and his connections helped him to enormous riches. Now, he seems to have…
2 Oct 2021
The legacy of Angela Merkel
People

The legacy of Angela Merkel

German leader Angela Merkel is leaving office to spend more time with her family after 16 years at the helm. But what has she got to show for it?
1 Oct 2021

Most Popular

Properties for sale for around £1m
Houses for sale

Properties for sale for around £1m

From a stone-built farmhouse in the Snowdonia National Park, to a Victorian terraced house close to London’s Regent’s Canal, eight of the best propert…
15 Oct 2021
How to invest as we move to a hydrogen economy
Energy

How to invest as we move to a hydrogen economy

The government has started to roll out its plans for switching us over from fossil fuels to hydrogen and renewable energy. Should investors buy in? St…
8 Oct 2021
Emerging markets: the Brics never lived up to their promise – but is now the time to buy?
Emerging markets

Emerging markets: the Brics never lived up to their promise – but is now the time to buy?

Twenty years ago hopes were high for Brazil, Russia, India and China – the “Brics” emerging-market economies. But only China has beaten expectations. …
18 Oct 2021