If you are part of the Parisian business elite, you are probably a staunch ally of Jean-Charles Naouri or a fierce critic.

Many lionise the "godfather of French retail" for making the beloved domestic supermarket group Casino the heart of a multinational retail empire. But having had some bitter disputes, the shy and intense 70 year-old has his adversaries.

Friends and critics at least all agree that Naouri has a mind like a steel trap — and a penchant for debt. "He has a computer in his brain," said one analyst. "But that's part of the problem. He's too smart

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