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People and Places

Couple Of The Month - Jackie Pressman-Gintell & Burton Gintell

Jackie Pressman-Gintell and Burton Gintell have lived in Cannes for 17 years, but had followed very different paths until they met in London in August 1992, and married a year later.

Jackie's company – French Riviera Property Search – provides expert advice on buying property in this region and Burton has been in leadership roles with Sophia Business Angels – based at the technology park of Sophia Antipolis. The couple are actively involved in The American Club of the Riviera, whose events are highly praised by attendees. Burton Is President and Jackie has the role of Secretary of the Club.

Let’s look at how this couple came to live and work on the French Riviera...

Jackie is English and was born in London. She had one daughter (Cara) and separated from her 1st husband when Cara was 7, but only divorced much later.

Jackie has always been at the top of different UK businesses and could be described as an entrepreneur. She received a great deal of press in the UK when she was running Carmen – the heat-retaining rollers company and again when she was Chairman of an English insurance brokerage, which became the largest brokerage in the UK within 3 years. It was for this that she was a finalist in the Business Woman of the Year – run by the Institute of Directors - and more publicity.

Well after Jackie had been divorced she was introduced to Burton by a good friend who knew them both but never thought to introduce them! He had also been in several businesses and was also an Entrepreneur. As an American (from New York) he had been divorced for many years but was then living in London.

"Our introduction was very funny." recalls Jackie.

Their friend said “Jackie, this is Burton but if you don’t know everything about the performing arts and opera in particular, there is no point talking to him. 

Burton, this is Jackie and despite how she looks (Jackie was slim with long blonde hair and wearing a black and tiger silk dress) she is a top business-woman so if you can’t keep her brain occupied there is no point talking to her”... 

They both shrugged and walked away!

The next day they were at an open-air opera together where a mutual friend was singing a major role! That was in the summer of 1992 and they were married in the summer of 1993.

Burton was the first man for Jackie who was not overawed by her accomplishments nor her of his. They made a perfect couple.

Burton later adopted Cara but as she was already an adult there was no permission required from her birth-father or mother but they both approved.

Burton was in the midst of negotiating for a large commercial French wine estate and suggested they both move to France.  Jackie had 3 provisos:

  •       Must live in a town because they must be near to shops, cinemas, markets, etc. and not need a car for everything.
  •       Must have the sound of the sea.  So many have the sight of the sea on the Riviera but the sound was important to her to replicate what she had in Marbella, southern Spain, with her little house on the beach as her holiday home.
  •       Must have Sky satellite TV with the usual 1000 channels in English, so no urgency to recap on her French.

They achieved all 3 by moving to Cannes 17 years ago, where they are very happy and where it has become their permanent residence.

Jackie has always been in business and when she moved to the French Riviera she noticed that those they met were happy with the place they had found whether that was a large villa or small investment apartment but after speaking to others here realised they were in trouble with regard to the way they had bought and couldn’t put that right without another outright sale. This inspired Jackie to form French Riviera Property Search and worked to help buyers. In France the tax and laws are Napoleonic and there is a Notarial system but a Notary works for the state and is not there to assist either the buyer or the seller. Jackie did everything for the buyer and has a long list of references from all her clients.

She was delighted that Burton continued to work so neither of them were really retired! And they make a very good couple that are loved and respected by all who meet them.

Burton was born, raised and educated in New York City, to which his parents had emigrated from Eastern Europe.

“New York City helped to form the me that I am, especially by giving me the opportunity to discover music, art, theatre, cinema, opera and ballet. Yet somehow, I felt to be a European born by chance in New York."

After Burton's first pleasure visit to Italy & France in 1959, he was aspired to live and work in Europe, especially the Mediterranean France. "Perhaps it was the light or the topography or the music or the art or the gastronomy or the wine, but I knew that the Riviera was where I wanted to be.” says Burton.

He attended Stuyvesant High School and City University of New York, majoring in Finance – a career pursued through accountancy (he is a Certified Public Accountant) into corporate financial management first in the market research business, then the wine & spirits industry – all in New York. He was President of a sales/marketing division for the world’s then largest wine & spirits group, having risen from international corporate staff through increasingly responsible finance and marketing positions. Burton was then Chief Financial Officer for another New York Stock Exchange-listed distilling company, and Chairman of its wine import subsidiary.

An opportunity to buy a moribund Scotch whisky distillery presented itself, and Burton moved to London -- not yet France, but a lot closer than New York! He actively revived the business, travelled the world marketing whisky, and won the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement and was honored to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace. After selling the business to Pernod Ricard (a French company), Burton bought a villa in the arrières pays near Châteauneuf de Grasse / Opio / Valbonne, and moved to the Riviera, whilst still retaining a residence in London. He was then unmarried, having been long divorced.

After starting up, then selling, a French medtech company, Burton’s business life took him back to London, where he became involved in the entertainment business. He co-produced a ('very unsuccessful', says Burton) British film, was CEO of a television company that recorded and marketed arts programming, and founded a subtitling laboratory. After the liberation of Eastern Europe, Burton formed / headed companies in 5 countries to distribute films from American major studios. Returning from a business trip to Warsaw on 19 August 1992, Burton attended the birthday party of an American friend in London at which he first met Jackie …….. the love of his life. Burton took Jackie to the Cannes Film Festival in May 1993, and they honeymooned in Venice four months later.

When asked about their home countries and how they felt when they left, Burton admitted that it was exhilarating and he did miss the New York of his youth but recognised how both he and the city had both changed. For Jackie, although she does not miss London does visit frequently to spend time with friends and family.

The American Club of the Riviera has played a great part in their lives. Burton was already aware of its existence when he first visited France in the 1980's. He became involved in the mid 2000's and then took the role of President in 2010.

"For more than 50 years, The American Club of the Riviera has offered Americans living / working / visiting the South of France the opportunity to meet and enjoy the company of like-minded others in a friendly social environment.

The Club’s activities also attract non-Americans, and perhaps half of its members are not U.S. citizens.  The Club welcomes those who may have worked for U.S. companies, or married Americans, or lived in the U.S., or just wish to share experiences with Americans."

As a couple Burton and Jackie enjoy attending concerts, opera, ballet, museums, galleries, restaurants; listening to music, and reading. Very quickly they were able to adapt to French living but the language was a little more of a challenge.... "Les français parlent français; Les américains essaient (the French speak French; the Americans try)"

"The French Riviera is wonderful, the light, the weather, the food, the wine, and of course the French. I love it here." smiles Jackie.



***

We asked Jackie and Burton to answer 6 questions that they had to agree on and this is how they replied...

1) What makes you both smile?
The palm-framed view from our window onto the Mediterranean sea – with its ever changing light and colour and texture and sound, ideally with a sailboat or two in the distance, and Debussy’s “En Bateau” playing in the background;  Picasso’s ceramics at his Museum in Antibes.

2) What or who inspires you? (You can have different people)
Venice. Israel. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the art of Alphonse Mucha, Leonard Bernstein, the music of George and Ira Gershwin.

3) Do you both believe in gut instincts?
B - My gut says no!   J – yes (and I think Burton really does too)

4) Your three essential things if you were both stuck on a desert island would be what? (That's 3 things you have to agree on)
Wi-fi for news and entertainment, rosé from Provence, very benign wildlife!

5) If you are planning a day/night out, what do you enjoy doing the most together?
Going to our favourite beach restaurant for a leisurely lunch.

6) A dish that you both really love.
Calamars en persillade (Calimari cooked not with batter but in a provencal way - absolutely delicious). Astoux et Brun’s oursins (urchins) and pommel frites (chips) – they are the absolute best. (Astoux et Brun is a casual restaurant on the corner of the Cannes port opposite the town hall - and is always full)

Monday, 1 May 2017    Section: People and Places
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