Nicolas Sarkozy is being wooed by sovereign wealth funds including Qatar's who are ready to back him to start a private equity fund.
Qatar's sovereign wealth fund and other investors have offered to commit as much as €500m in total to a fund run by the former French president, people familiar with the matter said. Mr Sarkozy has sought advice from close advisers on the plan.
However, he has put it on hold in recent weeks because he sees an opportunity to return to politics following the rapid decline in the polls of President Francois Hollande, who defeated him in May, two people familiar with Mr Sarkozy's thinking said. "The Qataris are taking an option on the next president of France," a third person with knowledge of the venture said.
Some in Mr Sarkozy's close circle of business advisers and friends have urged him not to start a business that could hurt his political chances. Getting involved in a private equity venture could make a comeback difficult because of widespread public bias against finance in France. .
Mr Hollande was elected last May after railing against finance on the campaign trail and pledging to tax those earning more than €1m a year at a 75 per cent marginal rate. "France isn't the United States or the UK," someone in his inner circle said.
But Mr Sarkozy, whose half-brother Olivier is a partner at the Washington-based buyout-group Carlyle, is keeping the private equity plan as an option he could revive if he decides to abandon politics once and for all, his advisers said. In particular, his wife, the top model-turned-pop-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, is resisting a political comeback, they said.
Mr Sarkozy has consulted business friends for advice on how and where to invest the fund. One idea was to invest in companies in emerging markets such as Brazil, and another was to invest in Spain and Morocco.