Dominique Desseigne’s sixth-floor balcony at the Majestic gives a commanding view of the Croisette — and the Banque de France next door.
The latter will disappear soon to make room for a 60-bedroom extension to the Majestic, which belongs to Desseigne’s family-controlled Lucien Barriere Group.
The larger, 360-room Majestic is slated to be ready by 2008 — unfortunately not in time for Cannes’ 60th anniversary bash next year.
“People like staying here because it’s so convenient,” said Desseigne, a tanned and elegant Frenchman who counts folk like Jack Valenti among his friends.
“Ladies’ evening dresses don’t get creased on the way to a red carpet screening, like they do on the ride from the du Cap.”
The Barriere Group is the only Gallic player left in France’s luxury hotel business; Paris’ famed Crillon, on the Place de la Concorde, was sold to an American pension fund last year.
“We’re the last of the Mohicans, we’re hanging on in there,” joked Desseigne.
Company owns 16 “palaces” as the French call their five-star hotels, mostly in chic seaside resorts. They are frequently associated with film festivals — Cannes first edition took place in the Barriere-owned casino on the spot now occupied by the Palais des Festivals, which the family lent for the occasion.
But if you’ve been to the Deauville Festival of American Film or the Dinard Festival of British Film, you may well have slept in one of the Barriere Group’s beds.
Its merger with the Acor Group last year added 40 casinos, including two in Cannes, to its portfolio.
These are the main generators of the Barriere Group’s e1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) annual revenues, said Desseigne.
“During Cannes, some of our richer clients might gamble e1 million ($1.25 million) in a night. If they win it’s expensive for us,” he said.
The Barriere Group next will open a hotel in Paris, the Fouquets Barriere, above the French capital’s most famous celeb eatery.
On the spot just opposite Paris’ recently opened Louis Vuitton megastore, the Barriere Group has spent $64 million converting offices into a 107-bedroom establishment with spa that opens this autumn.