Jeff Bezos received the Legion of Honor from France’s Macron

AmazonThe founder of .com Jeff Bezos received the highest honor in France in a private ceremony hosted by President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace on Thursday, according to people familiar with the matter.

Macron, who promotes the country’s technology industry, personally presented the world’s third-richest man with the Legion of Honor award, the people said, asking not to be identified because the event was private.

Bezos’ girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, posted a photo of the couple on Instagram on Sunday with the Eiffel Tower in the background saying, “The most amazing day celebrating you surrounded by friends and family. #Legionofhonor.”

Amazon representatives declined to comment. The French presidency did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The story was first reported in Le Point.

The Legion of Honor, established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, is a rare distinction for a foreigner and does not need to be made public when awarded to a non-French citizen. It can be awarded to outsiders who provide “cultural or economic services to France, or promote the causes it defends,” according to the website of the Legion of Honor office.

Some in the left-wing opposition criticized Macron for the optics of giving the billionaire the distinction on the same day as nationwide protests against the government’s pension reform plan. Amazon, which has about 15,000 employees in France, has also been the occasional target of labor actions. Unions SHOWED Black Friday strikes and protests at 18 Amazon warehouses in France and Germany last year, while some of the company’s plans to build new warehouses in the country blocked to those who campaign on ecological, economic and political grounds.

Bezos was formally awarded the Legion of Honor under former President Nicolas Sarkozy more than a decade ago but has never received it in person, the people said.

Earlier this week at an event at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Macron outlined the efforts being made by the French government to encourage the technology industry. That includes about €11 billion ($11.6 billion) in public funds aimed at financing new fields, such as artificial intelligence and quantum technology, and another €5 billion planned for the second phase of his program “France 2030”.

Bezos, 59, joined in Microsoft The founder of Corp. that Bill Gates and its former Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, who were awarded the award in 2017 and 2011 respectively. Gates received the award along with his ex-wife, Melinda French Gates, for their work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Past foreign recipients have also included musicians Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney.

Bezos, who stepped down as CEO of Amazon in 2021 but remains chairman of the e-commerce giant, met with Macron in 2020 to discuss sustainability initiatives and his Bezos Earth Fund.

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