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The global fashion business journal

Jun 12, 20244:31pm

Bernard Arnault, the insatiable appetite of the luxury slayer

Arnault ended 2019 by sealing his latest major deal, the largest in its history: the purchase of Tiffany for 14.7 billion euros (16.3 billion dollars).

Jan 15, 2020 — 8:57am
Iria P. Gestal

Bernard Arnault, the insatiable appetite of the luxury slayer



If you want it, go for it. Bernard Arnault is a man who is known in business as a slayer, a slender Gordon Gekko, dressed in Dior’s navy suit, but with a matching fierce appetite and determination.


“Sometimes he adjusts a bag on a shelf five centimeters,” his son Antoine Arnault explained in an interview with Forbes. “At ten o’clock at night, he is still going at it, he has incredible source of energy.” In 2019, Arnault sealed his last major deal, the largest in its history: the purchase of Tiffany for 14.7 billion euros (16.3 billion dollars). That said, his buyer appetite began to take shape much earlier on, in the family company itself.


The businessman, today the richest man in France, was born in 1949 in the industrial city of Roubaix (France). After obtaining a degree in engineering, he joined his father’s company, Ferret-Savinel, and convinced him to sell the construction division. Only six years after graduating, he succeeded as president and six years later he made his first purchase in the luxury sector, Financière Agache.





In the eighties he faced his first failure, when he unsuccessfully tried to inaugurate a subsidiary of the family company in the United States. The project did not go ahead, but from that experience he learned the aggressive American commercial tactics, ones he would later apply in the construction of his own empire: LVMH.


In 1984, Arnault joined Saint Frères to seize Boussac, a French group in crisis that at the time controlled Dior among other brands. In just two years, Arnault laid off 9,000 employees and sold Boussac’s other businesses to keep the crown jewel.


It was the first step to his now empire that reaches sales over 46 billion euros (51 billion dollars) and includes brands such as Louis Vuitton, Sephora, Loewe, Céline or Balenciaga, as well as liquors, jewelry and perfume shops. There are only a handful of absentees in his frantic shopping domain: the auction company Sotheby’s, Gucci, which ended up in the hands of his great rival, François-Henri Pinault; and Hermès, after failing a hostile bid vetoed by the French authorities.


A Chopin lover and a pianist amateur, Arnault has been married twice. From his first marriage, with Anne Dewavrin, he has two children, Delphine and Antoine, both with executive positions in the company and candidates to succeed him at the head of LVMH, although the passing of the torch is a taboo for the French mogul. A year after divorcing in 1991, Arnault married Canadian pianist Hélène Mercier. With her, he has three other children: Alexandre, CEO of Rimowa; Fréderic, digital director of Tag Heuer, and Jean, who is twenty years old and has not joined the company yet.

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