American tycoon buys French icons Taittinger champagne and the Crillon

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The Taittinger family have accepted a €2.1bn (£1.45bn) bid from the US holding company, Starwood Capital, owner of the Sheraton and Westin hotels, for a private luxury goods empire built over 70 years.

Starwood is expected to resell the Taittinger champagne house to a French buyer. The label may even be sold to younger members of the Taittinger family, who disapproved of a majority "clan" decision to sell the business for tax reasons. The Baccarat designer crystal company, also owned by Taittinger, is also likely to be resold.

The American company said it hoped to develop the three budget hotel chains owned by the Taittinger family - Campanile, Première classe and Kyriad - into Europe-wide brands. Starwood said it planned to hold on to and refurbish the group's luxury hotels, the Crillon and Lutetia in Paris and the Martinez in Cannes.

The Crillon, on the Place de la Concorde, facing the river Seine and the national assembly, is one of the half-dozen top hotels in Paris and among the most celebrated hotels in the world.

This week, recurrent rumours that the US food and drinks giant Pepsico planned to make a hostile takeover bid for Danone, the largest French food company, provoked an atmosphere of siege in the French establishment. The Prime Minister, M. de Villepin, said his government would do everything in its power to ensure that the water, dairy and biscuit company remained French. Yesterday the takeover rumours appeared to have abated, leading one commentator to dismiss the whole affair as a "storm in a yoghurt carton".

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