Speak up, top French advisor tells women in business

Mon Mar 10, 2014 8:35am EDT
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By Sophie Sassard and Anjuli Davies

LONDON (Reuters) - The first time Anne Meaux met Indian billionaire Lakshmi Mittal he laughed at her.

It was 2005, and she had just walked unannounced into the steel magnate's office to tell him he needed to change his strategy if his hostile bid for steelmaker Arcelor were to be palatable to the French government.

Mittal stopped laughing, and listened. Then he clinched the deal.

The incident was an early example of an ability to tell unpalatable truths to powerful people that has since propelled Meaux to the position of France's top PR advisor.

Mittal still seeks her advice, but is now part of a client list that reads like a who's who of French business and includes luxury goods tycoon Francois-Henri Pinault and construction-to-telecoms boss Martin Bouygues.

Just last month Meaux advised the Peugeot family on a complicated state-backed 3 billion euros capital raising with Chinese partner Dongfeng - again demonstrating an expertise in brokering complicated international deals that has taken her PR business Image 7 from strength to strength.

Meaux - small, blonde and wearing a black leather jacket during her interview with Reuters - attributes her frankness to a stint, when still a teenager, in the press office of French president Valerie Giscard d'Estaing. She spent a further 15 years advising politicians before setting up Image 7 when she was 34 years old.

"Once you've dared say things to someone as impressive as President Giscard at 19, you can tell anyone anything", she said.   Continued...