The French luxury mogul and the chairman and chief executive of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE, Bernard Arnault is back in the centibillionaire club.
Arnault joins Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk as the richest people in the world.
Arnault’s net worth stands at $103 billion. Backed with the promising news of a Covid-19 vaccine as well strong third quarter results of LVMH, he is currently the fourth richest person in the world according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.
Arnault’s fortune had touched a high of $109.4 billion in January 2020. With the world going into lockdown due to the pandemic, LVMH’s and subsequently Arnault’s private wealth nosedived almost 50%. Now, months later, his fortunes are back on track.
This is the first time ever for the world to have five centibillionaires.
An astute businessman and entrepreneur, most of Arnault’s wealth comes from the 41% stake he owns in LVMH.
He is also the President of the Board of Directors of Groupe Arnault S.E. (his family holding company). He has invested in Netflix, Spotify, Slack, Airbnb, Uber and Lyft through his family holding company.
He also owns 75% stake in Princess Yachts and is one of the biggest shareholders in the French supermarket chain Carrefour.
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Bernard Arnault has single handedly made LVMH the world’s foremost luxury group in the world.
An engineering graduate, Arnault joined his family’s Ferret-Savinel construction firm and rose in ranks to become the Chairman in 1978.
He then acquired Financière Agache, a luxury goods company in 1984 and became the CEO of the firm. When he learnt that Boussac Saint-Frères, a textile firm wthat owned Christian Dior was on the verge of bankruptcy, he bought over the company. While he promised the French government that he would save all the jobs, he fired several staff members. Within 5 years, he sold off all the company’s assets, except for Christian Dior and the department store Le Bon Marché, earning him the nickname ‘the wolf in cashmere’.
In 1989, Arnault became the majority shareholder of LVMH Moët Hennessy through a series of calculated moves and has been the Chairman and CEO of the company since.
Over the years, he has spearheaded successful take overs of several luxury brands.
LVMH currently owns 70-plus luxury brands across 6 sectors – wine & spirits, fashion & leather goods, perfumes & cosmetics, watches & jewellery, selective retailing and other activities. Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon, Givenchy, Christian Dior, Fendi, Bulgari, TAG Heuer, Hublot and Don Pérignon are just some of the brands under its purview.
Recently, Arnault renegotiated the Tiffany & Co. takeover, saving $400 million off the original deal made in 2019.
The Frenchman, whose wealth is more than 3 percent of France’s economy (as per Business of Fashion) is an extremely private person.
He is married to a world-renowned concert pianist Hélène Mercier. He has five children, three with Hélène Mercier and two from his earlier marriage with Anne Dewavrin. Four of his children Delphine, Antoine, Alexandre and Frédéric work with LVMH. The youngest, Jean is just 22 and will probably follow in his siblings footsteps soon.
Arnault stays in a 17th-century mansion on the posh 7th Arrondissement in Paris. He owns five mansions in and around Beverley Hills as well as a holiday home in St. Tropez. He owns a private jet as well as a yacht, Symphony.
Here are some fun facts about him:
- The 71-year-old luxury titan keeps himself fit by playing tennis regularly and has even played with Roger Federer!
- He is an avid chess player.
- Arnault loves playing classical piano. Chopin is his favorite composer.
- He is an avid art collector and owns works by Claude Monet, Mark Rothko, Picasso, Yves Klein, Henry Moore, Andy Warhol and Bernard Buffet, according to Bloomberg. Arnault has two large statues by Takashi Murakami in the foyer of his offices, as reported by Forbes.
- His eldest child Delphine Arnault, the executive vice president of Louis Vuitton, told Forbes that Bernard Arnault works 24 hours. “When he sleeps, he’s dreaming of new ideas.”
- Every Saturday, Arnault visits his retail stores and offers suggestions to his staff. He even rearranges products on display. His son Frédéric told Forbes that Arnault visits as many as 25 stores in a single morning, including those of his competitors.
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- At least once a month, Arnault travels in his private jet to keep a track of his stores in other countries, as reported by Forbes.
- The Financial Times reported that Arnault is given a head of state’s welcome in China when he visits and is ‘spirited through traffic in a motorcade’. (Arnault opened a Louis Vuitton store in China way back in 1992 before it became a large market for luxury goods.)
Compiled by Aliya Ladhabhoy