Plenty of disconcerted French people fear that the charming Jean Sarkozy’s surreal political rise over the last two years suggests just such a strategy. After all, there aren’t precedents for a struggling young law student to become a top political figure in France’s most influential rich conservative bastion, as “Sarko Junior” is doing, thanks to his father’s strong political brand and his diamond-grade Rolodex.
This week it became clear that the Sarkozys’ many political allies have opened the way for Jean’s all-but-certain election as president of the public development agency that will oversee a multibillion-dollar overhaul of La Defense, the sprawling financial district full of banking and corporate offices just beyond the northwestern edge of Paris. France’s “Midtown Manhattan” is not merely the workplace of 150,000 employees at the offices and headquarters of some of Europe’s largest corporations; it is a multi-billion-euro financial nexus. The position at La Defense is unpaid, but extremely high profile—perfect for a political up-and-comer looking to develop influential relationships and stack up chits to cash in later. (No wonder Nicolas retained his place atop La Defense’s developmental authority until 2007—when he was elected president of France.)
Jean can also schmooze corporate France as head of the conservative majority on the powerful county council in France’s wealthiest geographic department. He can access the power elite at his dad’s workplace (the Elysee Palace) and also through his young wife, Jessica Sebaoun, an heiress to the Darty electronics empire. Yes, the path to Jean’s future appears to be lined with gold, in more ways than one.