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Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault

Occupation: businessman and art collector

Birthday: March 5, 1971

Age: 72

Birthplace: Roubaix, France

College: École Polytechnique, Palaiseau

Nationality: French

Birth Sign:Pisces

OVERVIEW

Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault is the chairman and chief executive of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE, the world’s largest luxury goods company. Arnault is, as of 3 January 2022, the third-richest person in the world and the richest person from Europe, with an estimated net worth of US $202.1 billion.

Early life

Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault was born on 5 March 1949, in Roubaix, France. His mother, Marie-Josèphe Savinel, daughter of Étienne Savinel, had a “fascination for Dior”. His father, manufacturer Jean Léon Arnault, a graduate of École Centrale Paris, owned the civil engineering company Ferret-Savinel.

Arnault was educated at the Lycée Maxence Van Der Meersch in Roubaix, and the Lycée Faidherbe in Lille.

In 1971, he graduated from the École Polytechnique, France’s leading engineering school, and began work for his father’s company. Three years later, after he convinced his father to shift the focus of the company to real estate, Ferret-Savinel sold the industrial construction division and was renamed Ferinel. Following the acquisition of a textile company and relocation of their headquarters, the company renamed the real estate branch to the George V Group. The real estate assets were later sold to Compagnie Générale des Eaux (CGE), eventually becoming Nexity.

Bernard Arnault’s Career

Professional start

Bernard Arnault, Lvmh Ceo

Arnault began his career in 1971, at Ferret-Savinel, and was its president from 1978 to 1984. In 1984, Arnault, then a young real estate developer, heard that the French government was set to choose someone to take over the Boussac Saint-Frères empire, a textile and retail conglomerate that owned Christian Dior.

With the help of Antoine Bernheim, a senior partner of Lazard Frères, Arnault acquired the Financière Agache, a luxury goods company. He became the CEO of Financière Agache and subsequently won the bidding war for Boussac Saint-Frères, buying the group for a ceremonial one franc and effectively took control of Boussac Saint-Frères. Along with Christian Dior, Boussac’s assets included the department store Le Bon Marché, the retail shop Conforama, and the diapers manufacturer Peaudouce.

Christian Dior

After Arnault bought Boussac, he laid off 9,000 workers in two years, after which he acquired the nickname “The Terminator”. He then sold nearly all of the company’s assets, keeping only the Christian Dior brand and Le Bon Marché department store. As a result of the jobs cuts and reforms, Arnault was able to nurse Financière Agache back to health. By 1987, the company was profitable again, and booked earnings of $112 million on a revenue stream of $1.9 billion dollars.

Christian Dior dress

Acquisition of LVMH

In July 1988, Arnault provided $1.5 billion to form a holding company with Guinness that held 24% of LVMH’s shares. In response to rumors that the Louis Vuitton group was buying LVMH’s stock to form a “blocking minority”, Arnault spent $600 million to buy 13.5% more of LVMH, making him LVMH’s largest shareholder. LVMH had been created on the premise that the conglomerate would be too large for a single hostile raider. However, the premise failed to take into account internal takeover attempts. The fault became too large to ignore when Arnault had a differing strategic vision from Henry Racamier, Louis Vuitton’s president. In January 1989, he spent another $500 million to gain control of a total of 43.5% of LVMH’s shares and 35% of its voting rights, thus reaching the “blocking minority” that he needed to stop the dismantlement of the LVMH group. He then turned on Racamier, stripped him of his power and ousted him from the board of directors. On 13 January 1989, he was unanimously elected chairman of the executive management board.

Initial expansion and growth

After assuming leadership, Arnault led the company through an ambitious development plan, transforming it into one of the largest luxury groups in the world, alongside Swiss luxury giant Richemont and French-based Kering. In eleven years, annual sales and profit rose by a factor of 5, and the market value of LVMH increased by a factor of 15. In July 1988, Arnault acquired Céline.

LVMH acquired Berluti and Kenzo in 1993, the same year Arnault bought out the French economic newspaper La Tribune. The company never achieved the desired success, despite his 150 million euro investment, and he sold it in November 2007 in order to buy a different French economic newspaper, Les Échos, for 240 million euros.

In 1994, LVMH acquired the perfume firm Guerlain. In 1996, Arnault bought out Loewe, followed by Marc Jacobs and Sephora in 1997. Five more brands were also integrated into the group: Thomas Pink in 1999, Emilio Pucci in 2000 and Fendi, DKNY and La Samaritaine in 2001. In the 1990s, Arnault decided to develop a center in New York to manage LVMH’s presence in the United States. The result was the LVMH Tower that opened in December 1999.

LVMH Tower

That same year, Arnault turned his eyes on Gucci, an Italian leather goods company, which was run by Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole. He discreetly amassed a 5 percent stake in the company before being detected. Gucci responded hostilely, and called it a “creeping takeover.” Upon being noticed, Arnault upped his stake to 34.4 percent while insisting he wanted to be a supportive and unassertive stakeholder. De Sole proposed that in return for board representation, Arnault would stop increasing his stake in Gucci. However, Arnault refused to accept these terms. De Sole discovered a loophole that allowed him to issue shares with only board approval, and for every share LVMH bought, he created more for his employees, diluting Arnault’s stake. The fight dragged on until settlement in September 2001. After the legal ruling, LVMH sold its shares and walked away with $700 million in profit.

Increasing success and profitability

lvmh story

On 7 March 2011, Arnault announced the acquisition of 50.4% of family-owned shares of the Italian jeweler Bulgari, with the intention to make a tender offer for the rest, which was publicly owned. The transaction was worth $5.2 billion. In 2011, Arnault invested $640 million in establishing LCapitalAsia. On 7 March 2013, National Business Daily reported that mid-priced clothing brand QDA would open stores with the assistance of Arnault’s private equity firm LCapitalAsia and Chinese apparel company Xin Hee Co., Ltd. in Beijing. In February 2014, Arnault entered into a joint venture with the Italian fashion brand Marco De Vincenzo, taking a minority 45% stake in the firm. In April 2017, Arnault announced the acquisition of Christian Dior haute couture, leather, both men and women’s ready-to-wear, and footwear lines, which integrated the entire Christian Dior brand within LVMH.

Christian Dior haute couture

By January 2018, Arnault had led the company to record sales of 42.6 billion Euros in 2017, 13% over the previous year, as all divisions turned in strong performances. That same year, the net profit increased 29%. In November 2019, Arnault planned to acquire Tiffany & Co. for approximately US $16.2 billion. The deal was expected to close by June 2020. LVMH then issued a statement in September 2020 indicating that the takeover would not proceed and that the deal was “invalid” because of Tiffany’s handling of the business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, Tiffany filed suit against LVMH, asking the court to compel the purchase or to assess damages against the defendant; LVMH planned to counter sue, alleging that mismanagement had invalidated the purchase agreement. In mid-September 2020, a reliable source told Forbes (magazine) that the reason for Arnault’s decision to cancel the Tiffany purchase was purely financial: Tiffany was paying millions in dividends to shareholders despite a financial loss of $32 million during the pandemic. Upon examination of financial records, Arnault discovered that some $70 million had already been paid out by Tiffany, with an additional $70 million scheduled to be paid in November 2020. In late October 2020 Tiffany and LVMH agreed to the original takeover plan, though at a slightly reduced price of nearly $16 billion, a minor reduction of 2.6% from the aforementioned deal. The new deal reduced the amount paid per share by LVMH from the original price of $135 to $131.50. LVMH completed the purchase of Tiffany in January 2021.

lv tiffany

Under Arnault’s leadership, LVMH has grown to become the largest company by market capitalization in the Euro zone, with a record of 313 billion euros ($382 billion) as of May 2021. Arnault has promoted decisions towards decentralizing the group’s brands as a business strategy. As a result of these measures, brands under the LVMH umbrella such as Tiffany are still viewed as independent firms with their own history. For a very brief period on 24 May 2021, Arnault temporarily became the richest man in the world, surpassing Jeff Bezos with a net worth of 187.3 billion dollars. A few hours later, however, Amazon stock ticked up and Jeff Bezos reclaimed the spot.

1MDB

From 2010 until 2013, Arnault was a member of the Board of Advisors of the Malaysian 1MDB fund.

Other investments

In 1998, with businessman Albert Frère he purchased Château Cheval Blanc in a personal capacity. LVMH acquired Arnault’s share in 2009 to add to the group’s other wine property Château d’Yquem .

From 1998 to 2001, Arnault invested in a variety of web companies such as Boo.com , Libertysurf, and Zebank through his holding Europatweb. Groupe Arnault also invested in Netflix in 1999. 

In 2007, Blue Capital announced that Arnault owns jointly with the California property firm Colony Capital 10.69% of France’s largest supermarket retailer and the world’s second-largest food distributor Carrefour . 

In 2008, he entered the yacht business and bought Princess Yachts for 253 million euros. He subsequently took control of Royal van Lent for an almost identical amount.

Bernard Arnault ‘s Net Worth: $202 Billion

French fashion tycoon Bernard Arnault is the world’s richest person this Monday morning, with an estimated net worth of $186.3 billion—putting him $300 million above Jeff Bezos, who is worth $186 billion, and Elon Musk, worth $147.3 billion.

LVMH, which also owns household names like Fendi, Christian Dior and Givenchy market cap sits at $320 billion and pushing Arnault’s personal stake up by more than $600 million.

Bernard Arnault’s Favorite Books

Bernard Arnault’s Favorite Things

Bernard Arnault’s Art Collection

Bernard Arnault’s homes

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