Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault is a French businessman, investor, and art collector. Arnault is best known for being the chairperson as well as chief executive officer (CEO) of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE, the largest luxury goods company in the world.
Bernard Arnault has earned billions from his long involvement with LVMH and other lucrative businesses. He’s currently considered the third-richest person on the planet and the richest person in Europe. Globally, Arnault comes after fellow business moguls and investors – Elon Musk of Tesla and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.
Bernard Arnault was born on 5 March 1949, in Roubaix, France, to Jean Léon Arnault and Marie-Josèphe Savinel. His father was a manufacturer who owned the civil engineering company Ferret-Savinel. Arnault attended the Lycée Maxence Van Der Meersch in Roubaix and later proceeded to the Lycée Faidherbe in Lille. He eventually graduated from École Polytechnique in 1971.
After graduating from École Polytechnique, Bernard Arnault started working on his father’s company – Ferret-Savinel. The company was previously owned by Arnault’s maternal grandfather.
In 1978, Arnault became president of Ferret-Savinel. He served in that capacity until 1984. During his reign as president of Ferret-Savinel, Arnault was able to convince his father to steer the company away from construction and into real estate. That move proved successful as three years later, Ferret-Savinel was already an established real estate business. The company sold industrial construction division.
In 1984, Ferret-Savinel acquired Financiere Agache, another real estate company. He subsequently became Financiere Agache CEO. As CEO of Financiere Agache, Arnault also acquired the textile company Boussac Saint-Freres. Boussac Saint-Freres owned numerous departmental stores and luxury brands, including the department store Le Bon Marche and the luxury brand Christian Dior. Arnault later sold all Boussac Saint-Freres assets except Christian Dior and Le Bon Marche.
In 1987, Bernard Arnault founded LVMH, a collective of luxury brands that also included the Christian Dior brand. Arnault spent the next few years growing his LVMH venture. He acquired LVMH shares and became the company’s largest shareholder. By the end of January 1989, Arnault controlled a whopping 43.5% of LVMH’s shares and 35% of the company’s voting rights.
Thanks to his strong business acumen and relentless pursuit for success, Arnault was able to position LVMH as one of the world’s leading luxury groups. Some of the notable brands under LVMH include Céline, Berluti, Sephora, Loewe, Guerlain, Kenzo, Mark Jacobs, Emilio Pucci, Fendi, and Thomas Pink.
In addition to LVMH, Bernard Arnault has invested in various other successful ventures. Examples include Netflix, Boo.com, Zebank, Libertysurg, and Carrefour.
Arnault has also ventured in the yacht business. In 2008, he purchased Princess Yachts for €253 million. He also spent nearly the same amount to acquire Royal van Lent.
As of 1 January 2022, Bernard Arnault had a net worth of 190.7 billion. That’s enough to make him the third-richest person on the planet.
For comparison, Elon Musk is currently the world’s richest person with a net worth of $315.2 billion. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos follows at a distant second with $193.3 billion. Bill Gates and Larry Ellison come fourth and fifth with a net worth of $138.1 billion and $130.5 billion, respectively.
Much of Bernard Arnault’s wealth comes from LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE. The company registers billions of dollars in net annual revenue, with Arnault owning a staggering 47% stake and over 60% voting rights.
1. The best way to outpace your competitors is to acquire them
Bernard Arnault credits much of his success in the fashion industry to his ability to acquire rival companies.
2. Image is everything
According to Arnault, the first impressions your business makes on your prospective clients are usually the longest-lasting. He once said “If you control your distribution, you control your image.”
3. Never get too busy for your hobbies
Although he’s an accomplished business mogul, Bernard Arnault has kept his love for art collection alive over the years. Arnault has sponsored numerous artistic exhibitions, mainly through his LVMH company.
• Affordable luxury – these are two words that don’t go together.
• In the luxury business, you have to build on heritage.
• When you are on the management side, you still have to understand the artistic sensibility so that there is a dialogue with the creative side.
• I think in business, you have to learn to be patient. Maybe I’m the very patient myself. But I think that I’ve learned the most is be able to wait for something and get it when it’s the right time.
• Luxury goods are the only area in which it is possible to make luxury margins.