Claude de Kémoularia

Born in 1922, Claude de Kémoularia studied at the Ecole libre des Sciences politiques ( Sciences Po ) in Paris, graduating in 1945.

As parliamentary assistant and chief of staff to Paul Reynaud (a cabinet Minister and Prime Minister under the 3rd and 4th French Republics), de Kémoularia was initiated into the world of French politics and forged relationships with political figures from all parties and persuasions.

He also served as an international civil servant, working as personal assistant to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and chief of staff to Prince Rainier of Monaco from 1966 to 1967. De Kémoularia was also active in the corporate arena, as advisor and board member for boards of several companies including Forges de Châtillon Commentry and Paribas.

He became Advisor on International Affairs to the President and the Chief Executive Officer of Paribas in 1968, a post he held until 1982.

President François Mitterrand appointed him French ambassador to the Netherlands from 28 May 1982 to 30 October 1984. He then became France s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1 January 1985 to 10 February 1987. In this post, he chaired the United Nations Security Council.

Afterwards he became Executive Vice- President of the Institut des Etudes Politiques de la Méditerranée, the Sciences Po campus in Menton in the south of France; and spokesman for the Club de Monaco, a think tank which aims to harmonise and promote the interests of all Mediterranean countries.

Push for a permanent presence

Paribas moved from an exploratory phase to a more serious effort to establish a permanent presence in the Gulf after Claude de Kémoularia became Advisor for International Affairs to Paribas President Jean Reyre in January 1968.

De Kémoularia came on board with very useful international experience, having worked as personal assistant to the United Nations Secretary-General. Shortly after his arrival at the Bank, he told Reyre that a merchant banking specialist such as Paribas should be looking at the possibility of setting up in countries rich in raw materials. Reyre replied13: I m giving you a free hand. Go ahead and take the necessary steps.

De Kémoularia knew the Gulf well, having been to the region several times between 1964 and 1966, on behalf of United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. During that time, he had met all the Emirs of the Gulf States and H.M. the King of Saudi Arabia for discussions on development programmes.

In April 1968, de Kémoularia visited Kuwait with a senior executive from the Bank, Michel François-Poncet,14 in order to properly assess the potential for Paribas to develop a business in the country, which was developing rapidly as a major oil exporter. The pair met high-ranking officials, including H.E. Abdul Rahman Al-Ateeqi, Minister of Finance and Petroleum, the Under-Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and H.E. Abdul Aziz Al Sagr, President of the Chamber of Commerce. However, the meetings took place against the backdrop of the upheavals in France during May 1968, which gave an element of uncertainty to the Bank s strategy. Furthermore, France had still not established diplomatic relations with Kuwait, and British influence in the country remained predominant.

The purpose of the trip had been to position Paribas as a channel for investment on behalf of Kuwaiti authorities. This was not straightforward as Paribas found itself faced with strong competition from other French banks, among them Crédit Lyonnais, BFCE15 and also BNP, which was placing Eurobond issues with Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian investors. However, in subsequent meetings, Kuwaiti authorities expressed enthusiasm to work with Paribas.

De Kémoularia and François-Poncet discussed various options with Abdlatif Yousef Al-Hamad, Director General of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, Managing Director of the KIC and Chairman of the United Bank of Kuwait, during meetings in London

13. BNP Paribas Historical Association Archives. Interview with Claude de Kémoularia by Pierre de Longuemar, 28 April 1992

14. Michel François-Poncet was then a senior executive at the Bank. In 1986, he became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the holding company Compagnie financière de Paris et des Pays-Bas.

15. Banque Française du Commerce Extérieur. Established by the French government in 1946, BFCE s mission was to help finance foreign trade deals. BFCE was taken over by Crédit national in 1995, and later the two financial institutions merged to become Natexis.

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