Bernard Arnault: Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy Brands Mogul's Early life, Net Worth and Biography

"I deal with creativity all the time. What I have fun with is trying to transform creativity into business reality all over the world. To do this, you have to be connected to innovators and designers but also make their ideas livable and concrete."

                                                                                          -Bernard Arnault

Famous for his Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy Brands, Bernard Arnault is a successful French business mogul, investor, an art collector, a philanthropist; the richest man in Europe, with a net worth of 99.3B as of May 27, 2020. He ranks No.3 on the Forbes 2020 World's Billionaires list. He is the chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), and Christian Dior SE.


Early life and education

Bernard Jean Etienne Arnault was born on the 5th of March 1949 in Roubaix, France. He attended Maxence Van Der Meersch High School, Roubaix, and later enrolled at the Ecole Polytechnique where he studied engineering and graduated in 1971.


Career History

Bernard’s father, Jean Leon Arnault who was a manufacturer, owned a civil engineering company. By 1971, Arnault joined his father’s company and successfully convinced his father to liquidate the construction unit of the company at a selling cost of 40 million French francs and focus the company of real estate rather than engineering which was at the time a high-profit yielding sector. By 1974 the company had taken a new turn as a real estate company with a specialty in holiday accommodation, under the name Ferinel. In 1974, Bernard Arnault became the director of company development, and in 1977 he was named the CEO of the company and succeeded his father as president of the company in 1979.

The Arnault family business had to take a different turn in 1981 after the French Socialists came into power. The Arnault family had to relocate to the U.S. taking their business with them. Once again, Arnault proved that location was no hindrance to prosperity as he took advantage of their stay and developed the condominiums in Palm Beach, Florida.

Once the reign of the French Socialists downsized in 1983, Arnault returned back to France and took a chance at rebuilding his luxury empire. Arnault became the CEO of Financiere Agache, a luxury goods company after acquiring the company with the help of Antoine Bernheim and Lazard Freres, in 1984. 

With the help of Antione Bernheim, he was able to raise the $95 million needed to purchase Boussac Saint-Freres. He later gained control over Boussac Saint-Freres, a textile company experiencing a financial downturn at the time. The company consisted of Le Bon Marche—a department store, Conforma—a retail shop, Peaudouce—a diaper manufacturer, and the popular Christian Dior. Arnault sold off a good part of the company’s asset which wasn’t related to luxury goods—retaining the Christian Dior brand and Le Bon Marche. He later focused mainly on the Christian Dior brand—acquiring for it a perfume and couture department by 1989. He gained about $400 million from selling off the other Boussac assets. He used some of the money from his luxury goods business to purchase shares in the LVMH—luxury goods providers.

The LVMH came about as a merger between two luxury companies, Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessy. When the company was at the point of dissolving as a result of a conflict between its merger founders, Arnault stepped in by buying shares of the company. Arnault became a major shareholder in LVMH after spending about $600 million to buy 13.5% of LVMH shares. He made his investment through a joint venture with Guinness plc which held 24% of LVMH’s shares. By 1989, he invested $500 million to gain a total of 43.5% of the company’s shares. Getting 35% of the voting rights, Arnault was unanimously elected chairman of the executive management board in January 1989.

 After acquiring the company, Arnault fired some members of the LVMH staff, but still retained a good number of its staff, especially the management staff to continue the operations of the company. He made some innovations, and also, hired new designers one of which was John Galliano. He was known for dropping employees who didn’t deliver quality based on his expectations.

The LVMH took a downturn in the early 21st century. This came about as a result of a shift in the economy, thereby, making people lose interest in luxury goods. Due to that, the trimmed some of the brands but still had a hold on strategic brands that would later become famous globally.

With the LVMH headquarters in France, Arnault decided to open a branch in New York to serve as its official branch in the U.S.—choosing Christian de Portzamparc as the project supervisor. By December 1999, the LVMH tower was officially opened.


Other companies acquired 

      Arnault acquired Celine, a luxury company in 1988

      LVMH acquired Berluti and Kenzo, a luxury company in 1993

      He bought out La Tribune, a French economic newspaper in 1993, and sold it out for 150 million euro

      LVMH acquired Guerlain, a perfume company in 1994

      Arnault bought out Loewe, a luxury company in 1996

      He bought out Marc Jacobs and Sephora, a luxury company in 1997

From 199- 2001, Thomas Pink, Emilio Pucci, Fendi, DKNY, and La Samaritine were all incorporated into the group

In 2007 bought Les Echos, another French economic newspaper, at 240 million euros

 The Art Collector

With an exquisite taste for quality and luxury, Arnault is also well-known for his taste in Art and a well-known art collector. His collection includes collections of Picasso, Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, and Henry Moore. From 199 to 2003, he ran an auction house called Philips de Pury & Company, a place where art collectors and art lovers could auction and acquire art collections.

The Philanthropist

Over the years till date, Arnault and the LVMH conglomerate has engaged in quite a number of philanthropic activities. His philanthropic activities are targeted to help humanitarian, medical and scientific organizations. Some of these are the Foundation for Hospitals in Paris, Save the Children Foundation, and the Princess Grace of Monaco Foundation. He has pledged a sum of €300 million to support the rebuilding of the Notre Dame cathedral.

Awards and Achievements

      Commander of the French Legion of Honour in 2007

      The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars awarded him with the Corporate Citizenship award in 2011. 

      Grand officer of the French Legion of Honour in 2011

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