Biography Philanthropists

Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault
bernard arnault 2
Born Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault
5 March 1949 (age 69)
Roubaix, France
Residence Paris, France
Nationality French
Alma mater École PolytechniquePalaiseau
Occupation Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of LVMH
Chairman of Christian Dior S.A.
Net worth US$84.6 billion (September 2018)[1]
Anne Dewavrin
(m. 1973; div. 1990)
Hélène Mercier (m. 1991)
Children 5

Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault (French: [bɛʁnaːʁ aʁno]; born 5 March 1949) is a French business magnate, an investor, and art collector.[2][3][4]Arnault is the chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury-goods company. He is the richest person in Europe and the fourth richest person in the world according to Forbes magazine, with a net worth of $84.6 billion, as of September 2018.[1] In April 2018, he also became the richest person in fashion, toppling Zara’s Amancio Ortega.[5]

Early life[edit]

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.

His father, Jean Leon Arnault, a graduate of École Centrale Paris, was a manufacturer and the owner of the civil engineering company, Ferret-Savinel.


Bernard Arnault in meeting with Vladimir Putin, 24 November 2016


After graduation, Arnault joined his father’s company, in 1971. In 1976, he convinced his father to liquidate the construction division of the company for 40 million French francs and to change the focus of the company to real estate. Using the name Férinel, the new company developed a specialty in holiday accommodation. Named the Director of Company Development in 1974, he became the CEO in 1977. In 1979, he succeeded his father as president of the company.

Christian Dior[edit]

In 1984, with the help of Antoine Bernheim, a senior partner of Lazard Frères, Arnault acquired the Financière Agache, a luxury goodscompany.[6] He became the CEO of Financière Agache and subsequently took control of Boussac Saint-Frères, a textile company in turmoil. Boussac owned Christian Dior, the department store Le Bon Marché, the retail shop Conforama, and the diapers manufacturer Peaudouce. He sold nearly all the company’s assets, keeping only the prestigious Christian Dior brand and Le Bon Marché department store.[7]


In 1987, shortly after the creation of LVMH, the brand new luxury group resulting from the merger between two companies, Arnault mediated a conflict between Alain Chevalier, Moët Hennessy‘s CEO, and Henri Racamier, president of Louis Vuitton. The new group held property rights to Dior perfumes that Arnault believed should be incorporated into Dior Couture.

In July 1988, Arnault provided $1.5 billion to form a holding company with Guinness that held 24% of LVMH’s shares. In response to rumors that the Louis Vuitton group was buying LVMH’s stock to form a “blocking minority”, Arnault spent $600 million to buy 13.5% more of LVMH, making him LVMH’s first shareholder. In January 1989, he spent another $500 million to gain control a total of 43.5% of LVMH and 35% of voting rights, thus reaching the “blocking minority” that he needed to stop the dismantlement of the LVMH group. On 13 January 1989, he was unanimously elected chairman of the executive management board.[8]

Since then, Arnault led the company through an ambitious development plan, transforming it into one of the largest luxury groups in the world, alongside Swiss luxury giant Richemont and French-based Kering. In eleven years, the market value of LVMH has multiplied by at least fifteen, while, simultaneously, the sales and profit rose by 500%. He promoted decisions towards decentralizing the group’s brands. As a result of these measures, the brands are now viewed as independent firms with their own history.

Arnault professional decisions support the idea that LVMH has “shared advantages” such having the strong brands that help finance those that are still developing. The portfolio of major luxury brands has a history of stability, and thus its solidity allows for new acquisitions and group development. It is because of this strategy that Christian Lacroix could open his own fashion house.

In July 1988, Arnault acquired Céline.[9] In 1993, LVMH acquired Berluti and Kenzo. In the same year, Arnault bought out the French economic newspaper La Tribune.[10] The company never achieved the desired success, despite his 150 million euro investment, and he sold it in November 2007 in order to buy a different French economic newspaper, Les Échos, for 240 million euros.[11][12]

In 1994, LVMH acquired the perfume firm Guerlain.[13] In 1996, Arnault bought out Loewe,[14] followed by Marc Jacobs and Sephora in 1997.[15] These brands were also integrated into the group: Thomas Pink in 1999, Emilio Pucci in 2000 and FendiDKNY and La Samaritaine in 2001.

In the 1990s, Arnault decided to develop a centre in New York to manage LVMH’s presence in the United States. He chose Christian de Portzamparc to supervise this project.[16] The result was the LVMH Tower that opened in December 1999.[17]

Other investments[edit]

From 1998 to 2001, Arnault invested in a variety of web companies such as, Libertysurf, and Zebank through his holding Europatweb. Groupe Arnault also invested in Netflix in 1999.[18]

In 2007, Blue Capital announced that Arnault owns jointly with the California property firm Colony Capital acquired 10.69% of France’s largest supermarket retailer and the world’s second-largest food distributor Carrefour.[19]

In 2008, he entered the yacht business and bought Princess Yachts for 253 million euros.[20] He subsequently took control of Royal van Lent for an almost identical sum.[21]

Art collector[edit]

Arnault is a noted art collector and known for his contemporary collection that includes work by PicassoYves KleinHenry Moore, and Andy Warhol[22][23] He was also instrumental in establishing LVMH as a major patron of Art in France.[24]

The LVMH Young Fashion Designer was created as an international competition open to students from fine-arts schools. Every year, the winner is awarded a grant to support the creation of the designer’s own label and with a year of mentorship.[25][26]

From 1999 to 2003, he owned Phillips de Pury & Company, an art auction house, and bought out the first French auctioneer, Tajan.[27][28]

In 2006, Arnault started the building project of the Louis Vuitton Foundation. Dedicated to creation and contemporary art, the building was designed by the architect Frank Gehry.[29] The Foundation’s grand opening at the Jardin d’Acclimatation Paris was held on 20 October 2014.[30]


Personal life[edit]

Arnault has been married twice and has a daughter and four sons. He was married to Anne Dewavrin from 1973 to 1990, and the couple has a daughter Delphine and a son Antoine. Arnault married his second wife, Hélène Mercier-Arnault, a Canadian pianist from Quebec, in 1991. The couple have three sons, Alexandre, Frédéric, and Jean.[36] Delphine, Antoine, Alexandre and Frédéric all have official roles in brands controlled by Arnault along with his niece Stephanie Watine Anault.[37]

Arnault was a witness at French President Nicolas Sarkozy‘s wedding to Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz.

Arnault owned the 70 m (230 ft) converted research vessel Amadaeus, which was sold in late 2015.[38] His current 101.5 m (333 ft) yacht [39] Symphony was built in the Netherlands by Feadshipand delivered in mid-2015. Arnault owns Cistern Key, otherwise known as Indigo Island, a 135-acre luxury retreat in the Exumas. The island can host to up to 18 guests and can be rented for upwards of $300,000 per week – high-profile guests include Robbie Williams and the Aga Khan.[citation needed]

Request for Belgian nationality[edit]

In 2013, it was disclosed that Arnault planned to apply for Belgian citizenship and was considering moving to Belgium.[40] In April 2013, Arnault said that he had been misquoted and that he never intended to leave France: “I repeatedly said that I would stay as a resident in France and that I would continue to pay my taxes…. Today, I decided to remove any ambiguity. I withdraw my request of Belgian nationality. Requesting Belgian nationality was to better protect the foundation that I created with the sole purpose of ensuring the continuity and integrity of the LVMH group if I were to disappear.”[41] On 10 April 2013, Arnault announced that he had decided to abandon his application for Belgian citizenship, saying he did not want the move to be misinterpreted as a measure of tax evasion at a time when France faced economic and social challenges.[42] Arnault also stated that several employees requested to leave France for tax purposes, that he declined their requests, and that “the 75% tax would not raise a lot of revenue but should prove less divisive now that it was set to be levied on firms rather than people and only due to stay in place for two years.”[43]

See also[edit]


  1. Jump up to:a b “Forbes World’s Billionaires List Real Time”. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  2. Jump up^ “Bernard Arnault & family”.
  3. Jump up^ Galloni, Alessandra (5 March 2009). “Being LVMH’s Bernard Arnault – WSJ. Magazine”The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  4. Jump up^ “Being Bernard Arnault”. Retrieved 9 February2018.
  5. Jump up^ “LVMH’s CEO Bernard Arnault Is Now The Richest Person in Fashion”Highsnobiety. 12 April 2018. Retrieved 12 April2018.
  6. Jump up^ Steven Greenhouse, Pivotal Figure Emerges In Moet-Vuitton FeudNYTimes, 19 September 1988
  7. Jump up^ Biography Bernard ArnaultReference for Business
  8. Jump up^ Steven Greenhouse, A luxury fight to the finishNew York Times, 17 December 1989
  9. Jump up^ Steven Greenhouse, Pivotal Figure Emerges In Moet-Vuitton FeudNew York Times, 19 December 1988
  10. Jump up^ Jacques Neher, Intimacy Proves Too Much for Guinness, LVMHNew York Times, 21 January 1994
  11. Jump up^ Gwladys Fouché, La Tribune splash attacks paper’s ownerThe Guardian, 7 November 2007
  12. Jump up^ “VMH buys Les Echos from Pearson”BBC. 5 November 2007. Retrieved 22 November 2014.
  13. Jump up^ Heather Connon, Arnault expands perfume empire: LVMH buys controlling stake in GuerlainThe Independent, 30 April 1994
  14. Jump up^ LVMH says takes control of Spain’s LoeweEuropolitics, 12 February 1996
  15. Jump up^ Lvmh: Life Isn’t All Champagne And CaviarBusiness Week, 9 November 1997
  16. Jump up^ Suzy Menkes, Bernard Arnault: Man Behind the Steely MaskNew York Times, 30 November 1999
  17. Jump up^ Julie V. Iovine, Designing The Nouveau Building On the BlockNew York Times, 15 December 1999
  18. Jump up^ Secures $30 Million Investment from Group Arnault Archived 7 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine., 7 July 1999
  19. Jump up^ Colony, Arnault Win Seats at CarrefourDealBook, 30 April 2007
  20. Jump up^ Ben Harrington, Bernard Arnault plots new course for Princess YachtsThe Telegraph, 3 June 2008
  21. Jump up^ Aymeric Mantoux, Voyage au pays des ultra-riches, Éditions Flammarion Capital, 2010, ISBN 978-2-8104-0287-8, page 45
  22. Jump up^ “Billionaire Art Collectors”Forbes. 6 March 2002. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  23. Jump up^ Hannah Elliott, In Luxury, Bernard Arnault Alone Makes the Most Powerful ListForbes, 11 April 2010
  24. Jump up^ Julie Zeveloff (28 June 2012). “The 10 Biggest Art Collectors Of 2012”. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  25. Jump up^ Scarlett Kilcooley-O’Halloran, Tait Takes LVMH Prize Vogue UK, 28 May 2014
  26. Jump up^ Sarah Jones, LVMH creates $400K design prize to cultivate young talent Luxury Daily, 12 November 2013
  27. Jump up^ “Phillips de Pury & Company”. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  28. Jump up^ Aymeric Mantoux, Voyage au pays des ultra-riches, Éditions Flammarion Capital, 2010, ISBN 978-2-8104-0287-8, page 85.
  29. Jump up^ Alan Riding, Vuitton plans a Gehry-Designed Arts Center in Paris The New York Times, 3 October 2006
  30. Jump up^ David Chazan, Frank Gehry ‘Iceberg’ art gallery to open in Paris The Telegraph, 19 October 2014
  31. Jump up^ Lauren Milligan, Arnault HonourVogue, 18 July 2011
  32. Jump up^ Christy Stewart, Mr. Arnault Goes to Washington: LVMH Corporate CitizenBusiness Insider, 9 May 2011
  33. Jump up^ Reuters Monday, 8 October 2012 (8 October 2012). “LVMH head Arnault to be knighted in London”. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  34. Jump up^ Lockwood, Lisa (19 February 2014). “Bernard Arnault to Be Honored at MoMA Luncheon”. WWD. Retrieved 20 February2014.
  35. Jump up^ Maza, Erik (4 March 2014). “Bernard Arnault Receives MoMa’s David Rockefeller Award”. WWD. Retrieved 5 March2014.
  36. Jump up^ Reich, Ashley (11 March 2011). “‘Forbes’ Billionaire Divorcées: 10 Wealthiest”. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
  37. Jump up^ “Another Arnault Steps Into the Spotlight”. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  38. Jump up^ “Superyacht Amadeus”. SuperYachtFan. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  39. Jump up^ “Superyacht Symphony heading to sea”. Archived from the original on 27 September 2017. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  40. Jump up^ “France’s deficit plan? Soak the rich”. 9 October 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  41. Jump up^ “Bernard Arnault : “Je retire ma demande de nationalité belge””. AFP. 10 April 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013J’ai à plusieurs reprises expliqué que je resterais résident en France et que je continuerais d’y payer mes impôts. En vain: le message n’est passé. Aujourd’hui, j’ai décidé de lever toute équivoque. Je retire ma demande de nationalité belge.[…] Demander la nationalité belge visait à mieux protéger la fondation belge que j’ai créée, avec comme seul objectif d’assurer la pérennité et l’intégrité du groupe LVMH si je venais à disparaître et si mes ayants droit devaient ne pas s’entendre.
  42. Jump up^ “LVMH’s Arnault Withdraws Belgian Citizenship Bid”, Wall Street Journal, 10 April 2013
  43. Jump up^ “Bernard Arnault Withdraws Belgian Citizenship Bid”. The Business of Fashion. Retrieved 19 November 2014.