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BRANSON SELLS VIRGIN’S
FRENCH CHAIN
You Might Expect A Saucier Story After The Words "Virgin," "French," "Chain"

Hachette Distribution Services, the retail division of Lagardere Media, has bought music legend Richard Branson’s 16 France-based Virgin Megastores for about $132 million. The move had been expected (rumor mill, 7/23).

As part of the deal, Lagardere was granted the rights to the Virgin brand for distribution of entertainment products in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Portugal and Spain. The transaction does not include recorded music, since EMI owns Virgin Records.

Jean-Noel Reinhardt, Chairman of Virgin Stores in France, will head the new company, while Lagardere and Branson will sit on the board.

Questionable sources said Branson and Lagardere Chairman Arnaud Lagardere announced the deal while rappelling down the Eiffel Tower half-naked with their hands tied together. Word that billionaire eccentric Branson, who is in no need of money, made the stunt a non-negotiable term of the deal to see if the Frenchman had "balls" could not be confirmed at press time.

After the event’s completion, Branson, Lagardere and a host of stewardesses jumped into a hot air balloon and sailed over to England to celebrate with tea and crumpets.

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