Highly regarded as an international expert on family governance, Gordon S. Blair Managing Partner Xavier de Sarrau has forged a career from delivering solutions to private clients.
Established in Monaco in 1920, the independent law firm has spent the past century providing personalised services to individuals, international families and companies.
Initially founded to assist families moving to the nation nestled on the French Riviera, the past 15 years has seen de Sarrau and his partners transform the business into a firm focused exclusively on private clients and global families.
"This might sound a little bit cliché, but the fact of the matter is that many law firms have departments and when you come to them you are offered an answer from a tax point and someone else gives you another answer from the succession standpoint," de Sarrau tells The CEO Magazine . "Our focus is to bring together those competencies to really deliver solutions to our clients.
"Not only do we advise and help design the proper solution, we also implement – we put them into place, and we can actually modify them."
Striving to find a solution for every situation, Gordon S. Blair is able to work with family offices and wealthy individuals on everything including holding structures, trusts, family charters, succession planning mechanisms, setting up a family office or even finding the best place to buy a superyacht.
"In each situation our ambition is to provide a solution and to take the burden of aggregating different advice off the shoulders of our clients. We take [care of] everything," de Sarrau says.
Like many global businesses, Gordon S. Blair has felt the effects of COVID-19, however in a more positive manner.
"This has been an occasion for many of the families to again ask us to help them reflect upon how they can improve their family office organisation," de Sarrau explains. "We have been very, very busy.
"Obviously it’s important to meet with your clients, it’s important for partners in our firm to meet with the staff, but in reality, you can do a lot remotely."
While it may not be a direct consequence of the pandemic, de Sarrau believes there is a growing desire for people to strategically base their families and businesses, a trend that’s beneficial to Monaco.
"We see a lot of people worried by geopolitical risks," he says. "They’re considering establishing themselves in jurisdictions which may appear as being safe and where communication is easier.
"A lot are coming to Monaco … so the outcome for us is very favourable."
De Sarrau recently took part in a roundtable and hosted a keynote panel at Sir Anthony Ritossa’s 15th Global Family Office Investment Summit in Monaco. Speaking about how operating practices of family offices can jeopardise tax structuring, the DNA of success and asset protection, the expert shared his thoughts with about 400 of the world’s leading private investors, dynasties and family offices.
"When I started my career, the main concern of wealthy individuals or big families was reducing the tax burden or reducing the tax cost," he shared with The CEO Magazine. "This has changed completely. Over the last 10 years there has been a revolution and the good old days of tax organisation through setting up structures are clearly over.
"Now the main concern for people setting up again sophisticated offshore structures, like a trust foundation, is asset protection.
"If you are a wealthy individual, if you are a family with a good asset base, you want to protect your wealth from hostile actions from your enemies. Enemies can be investors if you’re a board member, can be your family if your children do not get along, they can be business partners, and authorities.
"Asset protection is really what matters today more than tax optimisation because tax optimisation structures do not exist any longer. We help families protect their assets."