Bernard Arnowho together with his family became the owner of the largest fortune on the planet, overtaking Which color muskpatiently built a global empire luxury productsthe a group LVMHthrough historic acquisitions that cemented his reputation as an insatiable businessman.
Frenchman Arnault declared in a TV interview in 2012: “Patience is the supreme quality in our family.” Ten years later — and after more than doubling LVMH Group’s worldwide revenues to €64 billion ($68 billion) a year — he told Radio Classic that “we can keep going, but we need to be patient.”
LVMH, the world’s leading luxury goods group, has acquired more than 75 brands over the years, including Louis Vuitton, Moët Hennnesy, Kenzo, Guerlain, Fendi, Céline, Sephora, Bulgari, Tiffany, and more.
Arnault told the French Senate in January this year that the businessman has also invested in the media in France (Les Echos, Le Parisien and Radio Classique), a controversial choice that must be considered above all as patronage.
During the hearing, Arnault also admitted that he had acted to block advertising money for the newspaper Libération because of a headline that displeased him.
The businessman, born on March 5, 1949 in Roubaix, northern France, started working in his father’s construction company at the age of 22, after he studied at the prestigious Polytechnic School, and persuaded him to change fields and invest in real estate. incorporation.
In 1981, after the election of the socialist François Mitterrand to the presidency, he settled in the United States for three years. On his return, he takes over the Boussac Group, a heavily indebted textile company, promising not to lay off workers.
However, he adopted a radical plan to cut staff and retained only some of the company’s activities, including designing haute couture “maisons” for Dior. Arno was 35 years old.
“I surprised my father when I went to visit him and he said we should reorient the family business and invest in something more promising: Christian Dior,” the businessman recently explained to Radio Classic.
Bernard Arnault had just laid the foundation of his luxury goods empire.
To control the LVMH group, which was born out of the merger between luggage manufacturer Louis Vuitton and wine and spirits group Moët Hennnesy in 1987, he exploited the rivalry between the two controlling families and took control of the company in 1989, after 17 lawsuits.
“He is a tough, unique and visionary negotiator who knows how to surround himself with the right people and always achieves his goals one way or another,” Arnaud Cadart, chief investment officer at Flournoy Group, told AFP.
But his career also records some failures, for example the takeover of the Italian brand Gucci by his rival François Pinault, who leads the PPR group (Pinault Printemps Redoute), in 1999, or his frustrated attempt to take control of the leather goods manufacturer Hermès.
He does not like speech or publicity. A few months ago, realizing that social networks were now tracking the movements of celebrity businessmen’s planes, he decided to sell the LVMH group’s plane. “Now no one will know where I am going because I use charter planes,” he told Radio Classic.
“Entrepreneurs have to face – sometimes completely unfairly – the criticism of the moment, because for a few years now the country’s mentality has turned against big business,” Arnault complained in 2016 to France 2 television.
In the same year, the award-winning documentary “Merci Patron!” [Obrigado, patrão!] The current radical left-wing deputy, François Ruffin, made Arnault a target of ridicule for his socialites.
Obama, Putin, Trump, Macron
Arnault’s career is riddled with controversy. In 2021, LVMH paid 10 million euros ($10.6 million) to avoid prosecution over an espionage scheme.
In 2013, Arnault dropped his application for Belgian citizenship and apologized for his abused decision amid a national debate over taxes and tax exile for the wealthy.
The billionaire has been greeted by major world leaders, from Americans Barack Obama and Donald Trump – who opened a Viton plant in Texas – to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
In 2014, then-French President François Hollande presided over the inauguration of the Fondation Louis Vuitton – a temple to contemporary art – and his successor, Emmanuel Macron, was the guest of honor at the 2021 opening of La Samaritaine, a luxury shopping center in a historic building from Paris.
Arno is married to a pianist, with five children who work at LVMH, but he has no plans to retire yet. LVMH’s last general meeting extended the mandatory retirement age for CEO to 80.
Translated by Paolo Miliaci
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