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Kering’s Francois Pinault Becomes Latest Luxury Tycoon to Plow Into SPACs

François-Henri Pinault. Virgile Guinard.

Francois Pinault, the billionaire founder of luxury conglomerate Kering SA, has emerged as the latest French tycoon to plow into the booming SPAC world.

Pinault, 84, bought a stake in former Credit Suisse Group AG Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam’s blank-check firm, a spokeswoman for the businessman’s holding company confirmed in response to Bloomberg queries. The investment in Freedom Acquisition I Corp. was made in Pinault’s personal capacity.

Freedom Acquisition started trading in New York at the end of February, raising $345 million after Thiam increased the size of the transaction. The offering recorded an oversubscription level in the mid-teens, people with knowledge of the matter said. About one-third of the deal went to family offices, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

Thiam has been on the board of Kering since last year, sitting as a director alongside the elder Pinault’s son, Francois-Henri. A representative for Freedom Acquisition declined to comment.

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Pinault joins his main rival in the luxury world, LVMH boss Bernard Arnault, in backing a special purpose acquisition company started by a European banking veteran. Former UniCredit SpA Chief Executive Officer Jean Pierre Mustier said last month he’s teaming up with Arnault and French asset manager Tikehau Capital for a blank-check company that will list in Amsterdam.

Thiam’s SPAC will hunt for technology-enabled businesses in the financial services industry that show growth and the potential to scale, it said in previous filings.

By Stefania Spezzati, Jan-Henrik Förster and Albertina Torsoli

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