Bernard Arnault (born 5 March 1949) is a French businessman. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of LVMH, a large luxury goods conglomerate consisting of over fifty luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Fendi. According to Forbes Magazine, Arnault is the world's 7th richest person, with a 2010 net worth of $US27.5 billion.
Education and business career
Arnault was born in Roubaix. After graduating from the Maxence Van Der Meersch High School, Arnault was admitted to the École Polytechnique (X1969) from which he graduated with an engineering degree in 1971. After graduation, Arnault joined his father's company. In 1976, he convinced his father to liquidate the construction division of the company for 40 million francs, and to change the focus of company to real estate. Using the name Férinel, the new company develops a specialty holiday accommodation. In 1979, he succeeded his father as president of the company.
When François Mitterrand was elected President of France in 1981, Arnault emigrated to the United States and created Ferinel Inc. Through this vehicle, Arnault undertook construction activity in the United States, developing an apartment complex in limited partnership form in West Palm Beach, Florida, which defaulted on its mortgage shortly after its completion. The equity investors lost their entire investment and bondholders who had financed the project lost most of their money as well. He was not particularly successful in the United States. Three years later, when the French Socialists switched to a more conservative economic course, Arnault returned to France and became the
CEO of Financière Agache, a luxury goods company. With the help of Antoine Bernheim, managing partner of the Banque Lazard investment firm, and government subsidies conferred in exchange for a promise not to downsize, Arnault acquired Boussac, a textile company in turmoil. The Arnault family put up just $15 million of their own money, with Lazard supplying the rest of the reported $80 million purchase price. Arnault sold nearly all the company's assets, keeping only the prestigious Christian Dior brand, and Le Bon Marché department store.
In 1987, shortly after the creation of LVMH, Mr Arnault exploited a growing conflict between Alain Chevalier, Moët Hennessy's
CEO, and Henry Recamier, president of Louis Vuitton. The new group held property rights to Dior perfumes, which Arnault craved to incorporate into Dior Couture. He created a holding company of which he owned 60% and Guinness, who had a distribution agreement with Moët-Hennessy, owned 40%. Following the October 1987 stock market crash, he capitalized on the lower quoted price and soon owned 43% of LVMH. He then consolidated his position by purging executives from both companies including appointing his father Jean Leon Arnault Chairman of the Supervisory board before officially taking over as Chairman & CEO in 1989.
In 2007 he acquired 10.69% of France's Largest Supermarket Retailer and the World's Second largest Food Distributor Carrefour through his Blue Capital which is jointly owned by California Property Firm Colony Capital.
He has since then led the company through an ambitious development plan, turning it into one of the largest luxury groups in the world, alongside Swiss luxury giant Richemont and French based PPR Group.
Among other companies, Arnault also owned the art auction house, Phillips de Pury & Company from 1999 to 2003.
Born 5 March 1949 (1949-03-05) (age 61)
Occupation Chairman &
Chairman, Christian Dior SA
Net worth ▲US$27.5 billion (2010)
Spouse Hélène Mercier (Pianist)
Arnault has been married twice, and is the father of five children. His daughter Delphine Arnault is actively involved in the management of LVMH. His second wife, Hélène Mercier, is a pianist from Quebec. His nephew Harry Seaman is also involved in LVMH, overseeing sales and he is currently researching in Australia. Mr Arnault is a noted art collector. Following the example of business man François Pinault, he created a Louis Vuitton foundation for contemporary art, which should open at the Jardin d'acclimatation in 2010.
Arnault was a witness at President Nicolas Sarkozy's wedding to Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz. He was also awarded the French Legion of Honor.
Arnault's main business competitors are:
French businessman François-Henri Pinault, whose holding company PPR owns Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney, Sergio Rossi, Bottega Veneta, Boucheron, Roger & Gallet, Bédat & Co and Christie's.
Swiss-based Richemont, which owns Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Baume et Mercier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, A. Lange & Söhne, Officine Panerai, Vacheron Constantin, Dunhill, Lancel, Montblanc, Old England, Purdey, Chloé, and Shanghai Tang.
In January 2007 Kathryn Blair, the daughter of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, completed an intensive French language and culture course at France's Sorbonne University. Tony Blair has been criticised for accepting an invitation on her behalf from Bernard Arnault. During Kathryn Blair's course, which ran from 12 October 2006 to 26 January 2007, she is thought to have been provided with an accommodation, security and transport package worth around £80,000.