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PEZ Bookshelf: Le Fric

PEZ Bookshelf: Le Fric

In 1978, the American R&B group Chic had a monster global hit with the song “Le Freak,” and people in France, noting the lyrics “C’est…

Sunday, Aug 14

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In 1978, the American R&B group Chic had a monster global hit with the song “Le Freak,” and people in France, noting the lyrics “C’est chic!” thought it referred to “le fric,” pronounced more or less the same way as French slang for money. Money—whether you call it dough, bread, loot, ducats, folding stuff, moolah, clams or whatever—is at the heart of the business of professional sports and in Alex Duff’s new book, “Le Fric,” some light is shed on that peculiar institution that is the Tour de France. The blurb on the back cover reads: “At the Tour de France, the biggest winner at the bank is not the cyclist who makes it to Paris in the yellow jersey—it’s the secretive family that owns the race.” And that would be the Amaury family and how they came to own the Tour is a fascinating story, which does not seem to have been told much in English-language publications. The first part of “Le Fric” is about Émelien Amaury, who arrived in Paris as a poor boy from Étampes, aged fourteen, and set about working in restaurants, washing dishes and clearing tables. His industry was noted by a newspaper proprietor, who found him employment in his advertising department and then, when his protégé showed more promise, established him in his own advertising agency. Amaury rise was not stunted by World War II and the occupation of France by the Germans. He played along with the Vichy Government of French collaborators, […]

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