– Billionaire French hotelier shot dead ‘in professional hit’ (Telegraph, Oct. 26, 2011):
The lifeless body of Claude Dray, 76, was found with three bullet holes in the neck in Neuilly-sur-Seine, the Paris suburb where President Nicolas Sarkozy built his career and still owns property.
A butler found Dray’s corpse at 9am on Tuesday following a death that had all the hallmarks of a professional hit.
Dray, one of the most prominent Jews in France, had been the subject of threats in the past. His palatial villa – which was called Madrid – was considered one of the most secure in the French capital.
It was regularly surrounded by police and private security guards, and is equipped with anti-intruder measures including cameras and infra-red alarms.
“Somebody got in and fired three bullets into the victim’s neck,” said one detective at the scene who asked not to be named, adding that a silencer had likely been used as domestic staff heard nothing.
Dray’s wife, Simone, was in the US, where four years ago he bought the famous art deco National Hotel in South Beach, Miami.
Dray also owned the Hotel de Paris in St Tropez, one of the most popular celebrity institutions on the French Riviera.
The couple were also prolific art dealers, selling their entire collection – including works by Niki de Saint Phalle and Botero – for up to £100 million in 2007.
They were the subject of extortion threats as recently as 2009, with Paris Prosecutor’s Office opening an inquiry.
Dray was a self-made man, who was born and brought up in Oran, Algeria, before founding the Cidotel hotel chain in the 1960s.
Mr Sarkozy was the mayor of Neuilly for many years, and built up close friendships with its super-rich residents, who, along with Dray included Liliane Bettencourt, the L’Oreal heiress who is France’s wealthiest woman.
Mr Sarkozy has lived in Neuilly for most of his life. He still owns flats there, but now divides his time between his quarters at the Elysee Palace and a town house belonging to his third wife, the Italian heiress Carla Bruni.