One of the most interesting CEOs I spoke with in Dynasties of the Sea was Philippe Louis-Dreyfus, President of Louis Dreyfus Amaateurs Group. The proud Frenchman was very charismatic in my interview with him and when the subject turned to the european debt crisis, his tone of disappointment and frustration was strong. As a child you always live for that moment when you can say “I told you so” but in this case, Louis-Dreyfus with a heavy heart sighed when he told me the time he called for the Euro’s demise when the currency was created January 1, 1999.
Below is an excerpt from his chapter which is under Marine Money International Copyright
Sovereign Debt Crisis
A strong European activist Louis-Dreyfus said he is very much in favor of “a Europe” but he is not happy with its present structure. He was against the Maastricht Treaty which he said opened Europe to too many countries and opened the frontiers to too many people and too much goods. “Europe for me should have not expanded so much. It’s one of our weaknesses. I was against the Euro, the currency, and I was proved wrong for many years.” he said. “I was against it because I didn’t believe you could get a common currency if you did not have a common economic policy. Which, today, at last eight or ten years after, I am right.”
Because of the various economic policies, he said Europe is going in the wrong direction because nobody’s speaking the same fiscal language. “I guess Europe will survive but will have to either go to a stronger centralized banking system and imposing policy like an economic union on its members which was not what the people originally had in mind.” he said. “So, I don’t know where Europe will go but we are facing a very difficult situation today. I cannot give you any hint on what’s going to happen because I have no clue myself.”
But even with the headwinds facing Europe, he said he it is still quite bullish calling it an ‘amazing land of opportunity’. “We are so busy in Europe that I was supposed to come to New York to do deals but I have not had the time. We are looking at new opportunities of investing and buying companies in Europe. We believe in a strong future. There is a quote I always try to apply in my business strategy and it’s by Benjamin de Rothschild, who said, “I sell when I hear the violin. I buy when I hear the gun.’ ”