France’s Hollande puts young ex-banker in top economy post
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Former banker Emmanuel Macron was named as France’s new economy minister on Tuesday in a surprise nomination that follows a government shake-up described as the lowest point in President François Hollande’s tenure.
By naming Macron, 36, Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls have marked a clear break with the left-wing branch of their Socialist Party.
Macron is the ideal candidate to push forward the pro-business policies Hollande is now banking on to salvage the floundering French economy, which include tax-breaks for companies that hire new workers and 50 billion euros worth of spending cuts.
Macron's predecessor Arnaud Montebourg was forced out of the government after publicly denouncing those measures.
But Macron not only supports Hollande’s economic strategy, he is one of its principle architects.
Despite being relatively unknown to the French people, Macron is no stranger to the Elysée palace.
He only recently stepped down as President Hollande’s top economic advisor to pursue personal projects, but has now made an abrupt U-turn.
The philosopher businessman
Macron was born in 1977 in the northern city of Amiens to parents who are both doctors, and attended a private Catholic school.
He moved to Paris at the age of 16 and embarked on the academic track forged by many of France’s elite, graduating from the exclusive Lycée Henri IV, Sciences Po University, and the ENA civil service school – the alma mater of Hollande and many top French officials.
Macron's career initially took a more philosophical turn. From 1999 to 2001, he worked as an assistant to the acclaimed French philosopher Paul Ricoeur.
Then in 2007, at the age of 30, he was hired by Rothschild bank and made a partner just three years later.
2012 was a big year for Macron. He not only spearheaded the 9-billion-euro buyout of a branch of Pfizer by food giant Nestlé but as campaign advisor to François Hollande, helped the Socialist candidate to presidential victory.
A friend to finance
Macron took a huge pay cut in 2012 to join Hollande at the Elysée palace, where he won accolades among the business community as an effective middleman between themselves and the president.
The contrast with Montebourg could not be bigger.
When Macron found out that Hollande was pushing ahead with a plan to tax earnings over one million euros at 75% he was famously quoted as lamenting, “It’s like Cuba without the sunshine”.
Macron is credited with helping draw up Hollande's pro-business agenda, but in June the Elysée announced the top advisor was moving on.
He told reporters at the time he was considering a teaching or research job, or perhaps launching his own start-up.
On Wednesday, less than two months later, Macron not only returned to the government but was promoted to economy minister.
His appointment immediately sparked alarm among left-wing sympathisers, who see the ex-banker’s appointment as the final departure of the anti-austerity platform that helped Hollande win the presidency two years ago.
At the time Hollande famously declared that his only enemy as president would be the world of finance.