Monaco, tower of Babel

SOCIETY/Since the creation of Monte Carlo, its casino and rococo buildings, Monaco has attracted wealthy people of independent means and international fortunes.


With 133 nationalities in 2 square km, Monaco is undoubtedly the world’s most cosmopolitan land. No income tax – except for the French and Americans – police presence and modern infrastructure in a city-state where political stability is a knockout argument in the present world disorder; the cocktail operates at full capacity and attracts wealthy new foreign residents. Indeed Monaco has its share of personalities from the Forbes world ranking. Maria Franca Ferrero, the widow of Michele Ferrero – the first post-war Italian industrialist to open establishments and offices abroad in the confectionery industry (and manufacturer of the famous Nutella) – lives in Monaco and her grandchildren go to school there. She heads the Ferrero group, with a fortune estimated at 21.8 billion dollars (30th in the Forbes ranking). Stefano Pessina, head of the pharmaceutical group Alliance Boots with his wife Ornella Barra, for his part lives in villa Trotty in Tenao. The Monegasque naturalised Italian is ranked 62nd by Forbes. This prestigious list also includes Del Vecchio, the former owner of Luxottica, the world’s largest eyewear group (37th), as well as Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Russian owner of AS Monaco-FC (148th). As well as Georgina ‘Gina’Hope Rinehart, heiress of the Hancock Prospecting mining empire specialised in iron ore, and Australia’s richest woman (28 billion euro).


1,671 Monegasques in 1938

This internationalisation is recent. “In 1860, Monaco had a population of 1,100, 98% concentrated on the Rock. Compared with 24,000 in 1914! The population was then primarily French and Italian, with some wealthy Europeans and Americans,” journalist and writer Frédéric Laurent recalls. In the 1938 census Monaco recorded 1,671 Monegasques, 8,540 French, 9,724 Italians, 1,902 British, 270 Americans, 278 Swiss, 194 Belgians and 164 Dutch. The creation of Monte Carlo speeded up demographic evolution. “Let’s not forget that before 1600 there was only one single Monegasque family, the Bellando de Castro who lived opposite the Palace, “says historian Pierre Abramovici.

Monaco’s first migratory movement was from Liguria. “The Italians came to Menton – then a leader in citrus fruit growing – to find work. Menton’s local population became the Monaco of the 19th century, a population of workers,” adds the author of ‘Monaco sous l’occupation’. From 1864 onwards, everything changed. “We witnessed the gradual building of rococo buildings on Boulevard des Moulins. And the succession of luxury hotels along the quay. Investors were given the opportunity to invest in property. Monaco was built on private capital until 1925.” Monaco, a modern city with recent infrastructure, attracted people. “1.1 million first class ocean liner passengers stopped here every year! And wealthy people of independent means, primarily English speakers, moved here. That movement continued until the 1930s,” adds the historian. At that time Charlie Chaplin promoted Monaco and the casino, banned in France and Italy, was a major centre of attraction.



For Frédéric Laurent, author of ‘Un prince sur son Rocher’, the internationalisation really began straight after the war, with the Trente Glorieuses (30 year post-war boom). “After the Second World War, the whole of Europe was bled dry. Europe was rebuilt financially and economically. From the 70s, fortunes replenished. The Prince’s ultra-publicised wedding to Grace Kelly caused the arrival of large Italian and German fortunes. Monaco started to ‘become cosmopolitan’…” Though Monaco attracted people and large fortunes, for tax reasons, the security argument undeniably took priority from the 70s and 80s. “The official discourse was focused on security when Italy and Germany faced terrorism, “Frédéric Laurent recalls.

After a period of stagnation, the British made a strong comeback to Monaco. But in recent years the most visible wave has been Russian. On 1st January 2002, the Russian residents numbered 38. In late 2015, there were 535 residence card holders, including Dmitry Rybolovlev, living in the Belle Époque, Edmond Safra’s last home. Alisher Ousmanov (73rd largest world fortune according to Forbes) has chosen Monaco recently. The Russian made his fortune in the metal industry (with Metalloinvest) and became the MD of Gazprominvestholding, responsible for Gazprom’s investments. The first private Facebook investor through Digital Sky Technologies (DST), he also owns shares in Groupon and Apple. After renting one of the SBM’s villas (offered at 200,000 euro per month), he would like to set up his family office in the former BSI offices, above Barclays. A shareholder in Arsenal football club, Alisher Ousmanov is also the president of the European fencing federation. The rouble crisis and the repatriation of capital required by Putin do not appear to have impacted on the Russian influx. Having slowed after the year 2000, it is now being encouraged, including with the recent organisation of Russian Year. “In the Proust era, Russians had a bad reputation and many were turned away or deported. The situation has totally changed, “says writer Frédéric Laurent.

_Milena Radoman



CREM mixes nationalities

On leaving Monaco bound for Paris in Princess Grace’s luggage, Louisette Levy-Soussan faced the difficulties of adapting to a city where she had no friends of family. So, in the mind of this former private secretary to Princess Grace and then Prince Albert, there budded the idea of CREM, the Club for foreign residents of Monaco. It is a very upscale club, housed in ground floor premises in the Mirabeau (the former hotel converted to luxury apartments) by the owners Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay. Designed by Lady Tina Green in black and silver tones, the club welcomes 500 members and mixes all nationalities. From bankers to international lawyers or businessmen, they all have one thing in common – being ‘far away from home’. The club is very select. The joining fee is 1000 euro per family, plus an annual fee of 500 euro per person. _M.R.

écrit par Milena