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With Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, I have lost a friend
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With Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, I have lost a friend

Friday, 04 December 2020
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Franco Cologni
President of the FHH Cultural Council

“Talent demands effort, dedication and hours spent perfecting a gesture which, day by day, becomes a gift.”

An entrepreneur at heart, though a man of letters, Franco Cologni was quick to embark on a business career that would lead him to key roles within the Richemont Group.

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3 min read

The call from Olivier Revol, chef de cabinet to the former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, hit me like a thunderbolt in a blue sky. The President has passed away. I knew he had not been in the best of health recently; that he had been admitted to hospital with heart problems. I’d called to wish him a speedy recovery and found him as brilliant as ever. He had until then enjoyed enviably good health for his 94 years, but not enough to resist the ravages of Covid.

My relations with him went back twenty years, to the turn of the millennium. Now retired, he was still highly active in political fields. In 2001 he had taken the head of the European Convention, the body tasked with drafting a constitution for the European Union that was, alas, rejected in a referendum by France. In 2003, as a brilliant economist and author of numerous books and treatises, he was elected to the Académie Française.

This was, without doubt, the position of which he was most proud. Culture was, after politics, his greatest passion and it was in the name of culture that we “met” when, at the head of Cartier, I decided to launch an international magazine whose theme would be the culture of beauty. With great enthusiasm – and, I admit, to my equally great surprise – he willingly accepted to chair the Cultural Committee of personalities from various backgrounds and professions, including Charles Wellesley, 9th Duke of Wellington, the publisher Franco Maria Ricci, the journalist Ferruccio De Bortoli, the writer Paulo Coelho, the former Minister of Culture Jean-Philippe Lecat, the semiologist Omar Calabrese, the fashion designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, the gallerist Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, the director of Opéra Garnier Hugues Gall and Prince Diofebo Meli Lupi di Soragna.

Published three times a year, Cartier Art, the journal to which Giscard contributed throughout its almost fifteen years, from 2001 to 2015, was an anchor point for the man who, at the time of his election, became the youngest President of the Fifth Republic, at the age of 48 in 1974; France’s first non-Gaullist head of state but a European through and through. As a man of immense culture – he studied at Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Nationale d’Administration – nothing could have prevented him from taking part in meetings where the magazine’s editorial team were given the benefit of his advice, suggestions, but most of all experience that nothing could replace.

In 2006 Giscard honoured me with the insignia of Officer of the Légion d’Honneur. He came especially to Milan where the consulate had organised a grand event at the Palazzo delle Stelline: a day I shall never forget. Today France has lost one of its great men who led the country towards more freedom through important social reforms. I have lost a friend.

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