Bernard Arnault second richest man in the world
He is a French business magnate, investor, and art collector Arnault is the Chairman and Chief Executive of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE, commonly referred to as LVMH, the world’s largest luxury-goods company. He is the richest person in Europe and the second-richest person in the world according to Forbes magazine, with a net worth of $103.7 billion, as of June 2019.In April 2018, he became the richest person in fashion, toppling Zara’s Amancio Ortega. After graduating from the Lycée Maxence Van Der Meersch in Roubaix, Arnault was admitted to the École Polytechnique in Palaiseau, from which he graduated with an engineering degree in 1971.
Born to an industrial family in Roubaix, France on March 5, 1949, Mr. Arnault attended the Roubaix lycée and the Faidherbe lycée in Lille. He then went on to study at the Ecole Polytechnique.
He began his professional career that year as an engineer with the Ferret-Savinel construction company and successively was promoted to various executive management positions before becoming Chairman in 1978.
Mr. Arnault remained there until 1984, when he undertook the reorganization of the Financière Agache holding company. He returned the group to profitability as he embarked upon a strategy of developing the world’s leading luxury products company. In the process, he reinvigorated Christian Dior as the cornerstone of the new organization.In 1989, Mr. Arnault became the majority shareholder of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton, creating the world’s leading luxury products group. Mr. Arnault has been Chairman and CEO of the company since that date.Mr. Arnault is also President of the Board of Directors of Groupe Arnault S.E. (his family holding company).Mr. Arnault is married and has five children.He has been awarded the honorary titles of Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres.
After completing high school he enrolled at the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique and received a degree in engineering. Upon his graduation the young man joined his father’s civil engineering business as an engineer and also started planning for the company’s growth and expansion. He convinced his father to change the focus of their business to the booming real estate sector, and found significant success in the field. He eventually started acquiring other companies and became the owner of the prestigious Christian Dior brand and Le Bon Marché department store. When LVMH was created as a result of a merger between two companies, Arnault invested millions in the shares of the new company and became LVMH’s first shareholder. Eventually he was selected chairman of the executive management board and in this position he led an extensive expansion plan and transformed the company into one of the largest luxury groups in the world.
He moved to America in the 1980s where his expertise in real estate enabled him to have success building luxury apartment and condominiums in Palm Beach, Florida.
Arnault later returned to France and took over the textile firm, Boussac, which owned the brand Christian Dior. This buyout became a model strategy for Arnault, which involved building a multinational luxury conglomerate by taking over famous but struggling family-owned brands. Parts of the Boussac company were sold off and helped fund the purchase of a 24 percent share in the LVMH enterprise.
Arnault eventually took control over the company, aided by a stock market crash in 1987, which helped him acquired a 43 percent stake. He became the largest shareholder and set about moving the company’s focus more in line with the luxury marketplace. This rebranding included taking on a new designer called John Galliano, who played an important role in the establishment of the company.
Arnault continued buying luxury brands during the 1990s, including Givenchy and TAG Heuer. His skill in maintaining tight control over his purchases has involved taking legal action against individuals and organisations linked to counterfeit products that Arnault considered to be undermining his brands. This tactic has ensured the longevity of some of the most famous names and products in the world.
Arnault set the trend in the luxury sector, as other businessmen looked to reproduce the method of accumulating brands. Despite some competition, he remains the leader in the luxury sector, employing more than 70,000 people, with revenues of €16.5bn in 2007 and a net profit of €2bn.
He has been married twice and has five children, and is a well know collector of art, and created a Louis Vuitton foundation for contemporary art, scheduled to open at the Jardin d’acclimatation in 2010.
- The Arnaults received 40 million French francs from the liquidation of the construction division which they invested in real estate business, which was then a booming sector. Now renamed Ferinel, the company became a very successful one with a specialty in holiday accommodation.
- Bernard Arnault became the director of company development in 1974, and was named the CEO in 1977. He succeeded his father as president of the company in 1979.
- The French Socialists came to power in 1981, forcing Arnault and his family to move to the United States. Being the astute businessman that he was, he prospered there too, developing condominiums in Palm Beach, Florida. Eventually he began to build a U.S. branch of his family’s property business.
- The political scenario in his native France changed in 1983. The French Socialists switched to a more conservative economic course and Arnault decided to return home.
- The enterprising businessman saw a lucrative opportunity when the textile firm, Boussac Saint-Frères, went bankrupt. The textile empire comprised several businesses, including the couture house of Christian Dior. Arnault collaborated with Antoine Bernheim, managing partner of the investment firm of Lazard Fréres who arranged the financing for Arnault’s acquisition of Boussac.
- Arnault invested $15 million of his own money, and Bernheim helped him to raise the reminder of the reported $80 million purchase price of Boussac Saint-Frères. Upon this acquisition, Arnault sold most of the company’s assets, retaining only the prestigious Christian Dior brand and Le Bon Marché department store. He became the CEO of Dior in 1985.
- After selling off most of the assets of Boussac, Arnault gained $400 million in the process. In 1987, he was invited to invest in LVMH by the company’s chairman, Henri Racamier. Arnault chose to invest through a joint venture with Guinness PLC that held 24% of LVMH’s shares. Over the next couple of years, he continued to buy more shares in the company, spending several hundred millions in the process.
- By January 1989, Arnault had managed to gain control over 43.5% of the shares of LVMH with 35% of the voting rights. He was then unanimously elected chairman of the executive management board.
- After taking over LVMH, he fired several of the company’s top executives and chose to recruit new talent to revitalize the company. He was a tough taskmaster and was known for his inclination to quickly terminate employees who did not deliver according to his expectations.
- He set about implementing an ambitious plan of growth and expansion of his businesses and acquired several other companies over the 1990s, including the perfume firm Guerlain (1994), Loewe (1996), Marc Jacobs (1997), Sephora (1997), and Thomas Pink (1999).
- Bernard Arnault’s takeover of the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH was a highly ambitious one. He displayed his characteristic determination and ruthlessness in the systematic and well-calculated takeover of the company, and his successful integration of various famous aspirational brands into the group has inspired several other fashion companies throughout the world to do the same.
Awards & Achievements
- He was made a Commander of the French Legion of Honour in 2007 and Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honour in 2011.
- In 2011, he was presented with the Corporate Citizenship award from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Personal Life & Legacy
- Bernard Arnault has been married twice. His second wife, Helene Mercier is a pianist. He has two children from his first marriage, and three from his second.
- Bernard Arnault’s company LMVH is engaged in a number of philanthropic activities. It supports humanitarian, scientific and medical research organizations, such as Save the Children, the Foundation for Hospitals in Paris and the Princess Grace of Monaco Foundation.
- He is a famous art collector and has pieces by Picasso, Yves Klein, Henry Moore and Andy Warhol in his collection.