When the Mulliez clan bought castles

Yves Claude, the CEO of Auchan Retail (belonging to the Mulliez family), is the new owner of the Château de Castelmore, birthplace of the famous d’Artagnan (1612/1615 – 1673). This acquisition was made to the great dismay of the local authorities, who planned to make it a museum in honor of the musketeer. Yves Claude intends to carry out necessary renovation work there and assures that he wants to open it to the public.

Located in the small town of Lupiac (300 inhabitants) in Gers, the castle was put up for sale by the descendants of Yves Rispat, former senator of Gers, after his death in 2015. In 2023, two offers emerge: that of public authorities and that of Yves Claude, both at around two million euros. On December 19, 2023, the Gers Land Development and Rural Establishment Company (Safer), which has a right of pre-emption over the castle, ruled in favor of the businessman.

This decision aroused the anger of local authorities, who denounced the project of the CEO of Auchan Retail, first presented as a “private housing project”. Several elected officials even called for a demonstration on January 20, 2024 to contest the sale, a rally which ultimately did not take place.

Yves Claude defended himself in a letter addressed to France 2, assuring that he wanted to reside there while “highlighting the history of these places”. “Since the first day, I made it clear to the owner and to Safer that the property would be open and that I would put my energy into sharing this place as best as possible with the public”, he guarantees. However, he did not specify which parts of the castle will be open to the public and under what conditions.

Partially registered as a historic monument since 1993, the castle requires heavy restoration work: the 700 m² building is in poor condition, part of the stables has collapsed and the chapel is in ruins. Yves Claude intends to urgently launch the renovation project, without distorting the place: “There will be no concrete or artificialization of the grounds to accommodate numerous coaches, no construction of facilities (toilets, bars, restaurants, etc.)”. He also plans to create an equestrian connection between Lupiac and Maastricht, place of death of Charles de Batz de Castelmore known as d’Artagnan (who inspired the famous character of Alexandre Dumas). The 155 hectare estate includes agricultural land which will be rented to a young farmer from Lupiac for a twenty-five year lease.

This is not the first time that a member of the Mulliez clan has become castellan. In 2018, the superb castle of Dampierre-en-Yvelines was bought by Franky Mulliez, founder of the Kiloutou chain. The imposing 17th century property had been left in a state of near abandonment. After acquiring it for several tens of millions of euros, Franky Mulliez launched an ambitious renovation project which continues today and which is considered one of the largest projects in France on a private historic monument. Much larger than the Château de d’Artagnan, the building will largely be open to visitors, Franky Mulliez having only kept a few rooms for his personal use. Started in 2020, the project has made good progress: the framework has been consolidated and the decorations and door frames restored. Although the park is open to visitors, no date has yet been announced for the opening of the castle itself to the public.

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