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First Round: Pigeon French

First Round has never been much of a fan of pigeons, an antipathy firmly cemented by an unfortunate incident on the way to its first black tie event as a youth (Eau de Guano – never a winning scent).

In fact, just about the only good thing pigeons have ever done, First Round would argue, is to star in its very favourite credit crunch joke (viz. ‘What’s the difference between a pigeon and a banker? A pigeon can still put a deposit on a Porsche’)

However, it’s a very different story when you’re wrangling over French tax law – where Les Pigeons are, as it turns out, indispensable.

The buyout industry in France has been up in arms about President Hollande’s nasty tax hikes on the wealthy. But it took a group of entrepreneurs calling themselves Les Pigeons to actually make something happen: after a wildfire social media campaign and (as you’d expect in France) some good old fashioned street demonstrations, Les Pigeons managed to scare the French finance minister Pierre Moscovici into an embarrassing about-turn on his plan to bring the tax treatment of capital gains – including carried interest – more in line with that of income tax.

(NB. First Round’s more learned friends have attempted to explain the various nuances and subtleties of this particular situation, but being a magazine intro section of very little brain, it prefers to focus on more important matters – like trying unsuccessfully to shoehorn a joke about carry-er pigeons into the next paragraph.)

Anyway, there are some important lessons for private equity types here. One, having a group of entrepreneurs going into bat for you on wealth taxes is an excellent strategy, because it takes a brave (/stupid) government to set itself up as an enemy of the job-creators. And two, next time you’re thinking about forming a pressure group, eschew the tired old acronym approach and call yourself ‘The Chumps’ instead.