Bernard Arnault

Arnault, Bernard

Bernard Arnault (1949). French entrepreneur. He leads the LVMH Group, an empire of luxury goods which includes Dior, Lacroix, Vuitton, Moét Hennessy, Kenzo, Guerlain and the Bon Marché department stores. He seemed to be destined for a career as a builder when, as a graduate of the École Polytechnique, he began to manage his father’s construction company.

Bernard Arnault

Acquisition of the Boussac Saint-Frères Group

The turning point came in the early 1980s. Prompted to do so by the government, he purchased the textile group Boussac Saint-Frères, then in bankruptcy. The group included Dior and Bon Marché, thanks to investments that it had made. This was the beginning.

In 1997, the group had a turnover of more than FFr 14,000 billion, with a net profit of FFr 1,336 billion. In Winter 1999, he became the main stockholder of Gucci. But his control was blocked by an alliance between management and the French financier François Pinault. At the end of that year, on October 12, he acquired, together with Prada, 51% of Fendi.

The richest man in the world

Bernard Arnault, at the helm of the luxury multinational LVMH, retains his position as the richest person in the world, according to Forbes’ annual ranking. His wealth is estimated at $233 billion, $22 billion more than in 2023, thanks to another record year for his conglomerate, which owns iconic brands such as Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. Behind him are Elon Musk (Tesla) with $195 billion and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) with $194 billion.

Besides being a French business conglomerate, Bernard Arnault is also known for his art collection. His collection includes works by Picasso, Yves Klein, Henry Moore, and Andy Warhol. He was also instrumental in establishing LVMH as a significant patron of art in France. He has also been awarded the honorary titles of Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres. In 2006, Arnault gave life to the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Fondazione Louis Vuitton
The Louis Vuitton Foundation

 

Bernard Arnault’s entrepreneurial journey

Starting from the 1990s, after winning the legal battles he was involved in, Arnault initiated a series of strategic acquisitions in the luxury goods sector aimed at the growth of the holding company. Particularly noteworthy was the highly publicized struggle for control of the Gucci group, which saw him “losing” to rival François Pinault, CEO of competing group PPR (now Kering).

Nevertheless, over the course of two decades, Arnault did not give up and led LVMH to establish itself as the undisputed leader in the luxury goods market. The turnover was multi-billion-dollar, and in 2010, it billed more than €28 billion with a net profit of over €4 billion.

In 2007, he scored another significant coup by acquiring a 10% stake in Carrefour, the largest French food distribution chain. Arnault is known for being a cold, prompt, and precise businessman. However, he is also an art connoisseur, both for the good taste with which he enriches his private collection and for the intuition with which he recruits future designers for the group’s historic fashion houses.

It was at his behest that fashion talents like Marc Jacobs, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, and Riccardo Tisci revitalized the image and business of Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, and Givenchy. Thanks to Arnault, these same designers also founded their eponymous fashion houses, with the startup funding and managerial control provided by LVMH.

2020

In 2020, Bernard Arnault became the world’s second-richest person again, with a net worth of more than $137 billion, after a surge in LVMH’s share price. Arnault added $7 billion to his wealth, as European stocks and luxury companies soared on the back of the Covid-19 vaccine news from Pfizer. Europe’s richest man, who is chairman and CEO of LVMH, has added about $16 billion to his wealth. Forbes ranked Arnault as the second richest person in the world, behind Jeff Bezos, who is worth about $184 billion. Arnault captured the second-place spot in 2019 but fell in the rankings as LVMH stock plunged during the coronavirus pandemic. According to Forbes’s real-time tracking, Bill Gates, formerly number two, is now third with $119 billion.

You may also like

Bernard Arnault (Italian Version)

Musée Vuitton

Virgil Abloh