London Daily

Focus on the big picture.

Bernard Arnault, Luxury Emperor Who Dethroned Elon Musk As World's Richest Person

Bernard Arnault, Luxury Emperor Who Dethroned Elon Musk As World's Richest Person

With $184 billion on Thursday, Bernard Arnault and his family moved to the top of Forbes' billionaire list, knocking the Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter boss off the top spot.
Bernard Arnault -- who with his family now tops the wealth of Elon Musk -- gradually built LVMH into a global luxury empire by buying up iconic brands, sealing his reputation as a formidable and insatiable businessman.

With $184 billion on Thursday, the 73-year-old Frenchman and his family moved to the top of Forbes' billionaire list, knocking the Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter boss off the top spot.

LVMH -- the world's leading luxury group -- boasts more than 75 brands, acquired over time.

They include some of the most recognisable names in fashion and prestige goods, from Louis Vuitton and Kenzo to Moet Hennessy and Tiffany.

"An essential quality in our family is patience," Arnault acknowledged in a 2012 TV profile of him.

A decade later -- by which time LVMH's annual sales had more than doubled to over 64 billion euros ($68 billion) -- he told France's Radio Classique: "We can continue to progress -- but let's be patient. 

"No rush," he said.

The businessman has also invested in the French media, a move he described during a Senate hearing in January 2022 as "more on the patronage side".

During a hearing in the French Senate earlier this year Arnault said he had intervened to stop LVMH advertising in the Liberation newspaper, after it irked him with a front-page article.

'Invest in something promising'

Arnault was born in the northern French city of Roubaix on March 5, 1949 and joined his father's public works building company at the age of 22.

He had just left the elite Ecole Polytechnique and convinced his father to transform the construction business into real-estate development instead.

In 1981, after socialist Francois Mitterrand was elected president, Arnault left France for the United States.

On his return three years later, he bought the debt-ridden textiles company Boussac, prevailing against several serious competitors with a promise to save jobs.

However, he embarked on a drastic reorganisation of the firm, only retaining some of its businesses, including the fashion house Christian Dior.

By then, Arnault was 35 years old.

"My father was surprised when I went to see him saying: 'We're going to redirect the family group and try to invest in something more promising, Christian Dior'," the businessman recalled recently on Radio Classique.

It would be the foundation stone for his luxury empire.

LVMH was born out of the merger in 1987 of trunk-maker Louis Vuitton and the wines and spirits group Moet Hennessy.

Rivalry between the families owning the two companies aided Arnault's ascendancy and he took control of the group in 1989 after no fewer than 17 legal proceedings.

"He's a tough negotiator but unmatched, a visionary who knows how to surround himself with good people and who in the end always gets his way one way or another," Arnaud Cadart, portfolio manager at financial services firm Flornoy, told AFP.

Arnault's rise, however, has not been without some failures.

Corporate criticisms

He lost Italian fashion and leather goods house Gucci to his French rival Francois Pinault, head of the PPR group, in 1999.

Arnault also tried in vain to take over Hermes, known for its silk scarves and leather handbags, by secretly building up a stake in the firm.

He rarely speaks publicly and does not like the limelight.

When the use of private jets by celebrities was being tracked on social media earlier this year, Arnault sold the LVMH jet.

"The upshot now is that no one else can know where I'm going because I lease planes," he said on Radio Classique.

"It's the French businessman's lot to embody -- sometimes in a totally unjustified way -- the criticisms of the day since the mindset has for a few years now been a bit anti-corporate," he lamented on France 2 in 2016.

That same year he was skewered in a satirical documentary entitled "Merci Patron!" (Thank you Boss!) by filmmaker and now politician Francois Ruffin, who often has Arnault in his crosshairs.

Obama, Putin, Trump, Macron...

Last year, LVMH paid a 10-million-euro fine to settle a case as part of a probe into spying.

Arnault abandoned his bid to secure Belgian nationality in 2013 issuing a mea culpa after it whipped up a storm of controversy which rumbled on for months amid public debate over the tax arrangements of the wealthy.

In 2011, he was received at the White House by president Barack Obama; Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed him to Moscow five years later; former French president Francois Hollande cut the ribbon on his Louis Vuitton Foundation, while Donald Trump did the same for a Vuitton workshop in Texas.

And when the historic Samaritaine department store, owned by LVMH, reopened last year, French President Emmanuel Macron was a guest at the inauguration.

In Japan, China and the Middle East, the luxury mogul has access to top leaders.

Arnault has five children, all of whom work for LVMH, but shows little sign of slowing down -- or handing over the reins just yet.

Every week he makes a point of touring all the group's Paris-based companies.

At its last general meeting, the age limit for his role as LVMH chief executive was extended to 80 years old, ensuring the luxury conglomerate stays in family hands.

Married to a pianist and art lover, Arnault also created the Louis Vuitton Foundation, one of Paris' most prestigious exhibition locations for contemporary art.
Newsletter

Related Articles

London Daily
0:00
0:00
Close
Hello and welcome back. Here we are with your latest news update from around the world.
Hello and welcome back. Here are today's top stories from around the world, you don't want to miss:
UK PM Sunak and the Election Betting Scandal
Climate Activists Target Taylor Swift's Private Jet in UK
United States Bans Kaspersky Antivirus
US to Supply Taiwan with Suicide Drones Amid Rising Tensions with China
Bodyguard of UK Prime Minister Arrested for Alleged Election Betting
Global Displacement Crisis: Record Numbers in 2023
Muslim Community Leader Criticizes Nigel Farage for Undermining Muslims
Melinda Gates Discusses 'Horrible' Divorce from Bill Gates
Child Obesity Surge in England: A Deep Concern
U.S. Sues Adobe Over Hard-to-Cancel Subscriptions
Deadly Heat Wave Claims Dozens of Lives During Hajj Pilgrimage in Mecca
Here are today's top worldwide stories you don’t want to miss:.
World’s Largest Pilot Union Calls to Eliminate Terms Like ‘Cockpit’ and ‘Manpower’ for Equity
Woman Suing UK Intel Services Denies China Spy Allegations
Iran Sentences Nobel Laureate Narges Mohammadi to 1-Year Prison Term for Propaganda
News roundup
Good day, everyone! We've got some gripping stories for you today, spanning from the Middle East to Europe, and even a touch of Hollywood.
Britain’s Refugee Visa Rules Stranding Children in War Zones
UK Elections Predict ‘Electoral Extinction’ for PM Sunak’s Conservative Party
Italian Activist Ilaria Salis Returns Home After Election to European Parliament
Good morning!
England Faces Serbia in Euro Opener with Defensive Concerns
Dermatologist Warns Against Sunbed Usage
Fake Pro-Reform UK Social Accounts and Their Influence on Elections
UK Man Jailed for Non-Consensual Condom Removal
Reform UK Surpasses Conservatives in Historic Poll
US, Britain, Canada Accuse Russia of Interference in Moldova’s Election
Taylor Swift Fans Create Seismic Activity in Edinburgh
Sunak Aide Under Investigation for Election Bet
Labour Leader Starmer Focuses on Wealth Creation for Upcoming UK Elections
G7 to Use Frozen Russian Assets for $50 Billion Ukraine Aid
Anti-Israel Irish MEP Clare Daly LOST her seat in the EU Election
Johnson & Johnson Settles Talc Safety Claims for $700 Million
EU Urged to Welcome Skilled Russians to Weaken Putin
EU Elections Overview: Far-Right Gains and Major Political Shifts
Israel Rescues Four Hostages from Gaza
Emmanuel Macron Calls for Snap Election
Jordan Bardella: Young Far-Right Leader Poised for Future Political Influence in France
World's Oldest Privately Owned Book Auctioned for $3.8 Million
Animal Rights Activists Deface King Charles' Portrait in Protest
Dutch Military Intel Uncovers Extensive Chinese Cyber Espionage
Turkish Student Arrested for Using AI to Cheat in University Exam
Rise in Dengue and Other Mosquito-Borne Diseases in Europe Due to Climate Change
EU Elections Overview: Far-Right Gains and Major Political Shifts
Far-Right National Rally Dominates France's EU Vote
Macron Calls Snap Legislative Elections After Far-Right Victory
Far-Right Gains Significantly in EU Election
UK Job Market Shows Signs of Recovery
×