Meet Francois Pinault, the French billionaire who has a $1.2 billion art collection, owns Christie's, and founded Kering, the luxury giant behind Gucci and Balenciaga

francois pinaultREUTERS/Manuel Silvestri (ITALY)

  • François Pinault is the founder and owner of Kering luxury group, which includes several iconic fashion houses including Gucci and Alexander McQueen.
  • Pinault started out working for his family's timber company before eventually entering the retail market.
  • Today he is the second-richest person in France, behind Bernard Arnault, and the 23rd-richest person in the world.

François Pinault is tied to some of the biggest names in fashion: Gucci, Alexander McQueen, and Yves Saint Laurent. As the owner of Kering luxury group, his family manages over a dozen high-end brands.

Pinault grew up in the rural French countryside, beginning his career working for his family's timber business. After establishing his own company in Rennes, he slowly moved into the retail market, before shifting solely to the luxury retail market in 2016.

Now under his son's direction, the company continues to flourish, especially with rocketing sales for both Gucci and Balenciaga. Gucci was Pinault's first fashion house purchase, and remains one the mogul's most important business deals to date. The acquisition was hard-fought in a battle between rival French billionaire and luxury brand owner Bernard Arnault.

Read more: Gucci has become hugely popular with teens and millennials. We visited a store and saw why they love it despite the high price tags.

Alongside other major holdings, such as a winery in Bourdeaux and a cruise line in Marseille, Pinault is one of the world's biggest private art collectors. His collection includes over 3,000 works of art and is worth over $1.2 billion.

Keep reading for a deeper look at Pinault's life, from his company's origins to his most recent business investments.

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François Pinault is one of the most powerful men in the fashion industry.

François Pinault is one of the most powerful men in the fashion industry.

According to Bloomberg, he is the 23rd-richest person in the world with a net worth of $34.3 billion ...

According to Bloomberg, he is the 23rd-richest person in the world with a net worth of $34.3 billion ...

Source: Bloomberg

... and the second-richest person in France.

... and the second-richest person in France.

Source: Bloomberg

The richest man in France is Bernard Arnault, who controls LVMH, the world's largest luxury group.

The richest man in France is Bernard Arnault, who controls LVMH, the world's largest luxury group.

Source: Forbes, The Guardian, New York Times

Over the years, Pinault's successful career has included many calculated business moves and key partnerships. However, some of his most important decisions were made early on in France, where his company originated. Pinault was born in Les Champs-Géraux, a commune in Brittany, France.

Over the years, Pinault's successful career has included many calculated business moves and key partnerships. However, some of his most important decisions were made early on in France, where his company originated. Pinault was born in Les Champs-Géraux, a commune in Brittany, France.

Source: Google Maps, Britannica

Pinault's first job was working for his father's lumber business.

Pinault's first job was working for his father's lumber business.

Source: The Guardian, Bloomberg

In 1963, Pinault founded Établissements Pinault, a timber trading company, in Rennes, France. Pinault also briefly attended College Saint-Martin in Rennes, but left school at age 16.

In 1963, Pinault founded Établissements Pinault, a timber trading company, in Rennes, France. Pinault also briefly attended College Saint-Martin in Rennes, but left school at age 16.

Source: Kering, The Guardian, Bloomberg

In 1988, the company first appeared on the Paris Stock Exchange and two years later, in 1990, the company took on retail distribution.

In 1988, the company first appeared on the Paris Stock Exchange and two years later, in 1990, the company took on retail distribution.

Source: Kering

In 1994, the company became Pinault Printemps Redoute after acquiring La Redoute, a French mail-order retailer, and Le Printemps, a major French department store chain.

In 1994, the company became Pinault Printemps Redoute after acquiring La Redoute, a French mail-order retailer, and Le Printemps, a major French department store chain.

Source: Kering

After several years in retail, the company began shifting its focus to luxury in 1994 after purchasing a 42% stake in the Gucci Group.

After several years in retail, the company began shifting its focus to luxury in 1994 after purchasing a 42% stake in the Gucci Group.

Source: Kering

The acquisition of Gucci followed a nearly two-and-a-half-year battle with fellow billionaire Bernard Arnault. The New York Times previously labeled the legal war "one of the most bitter fights in corporate history."

The acquisition of Gucci followed a nearly two-and-a-half-year battle with fellow billionaire Bernard Arnault. The New York Times previously labeled the legal war "one of the most bitter fights in corporate history."

Source: New York Times

During this time, Pinault also acquired luxury brand Yves Saint Laurent ...

During this time, Pinault also acquired luxury brand Yves Saint Laurent ...

Source: Kering

... and Italian fashion houses Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga.

... and Italian fashion houses Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga.

Source: Kering

In 2005, Pinault Printemps Redoute shortened its name to PPR. Pinault has three children; his son, François-Henri Pinault, was named the company's new face and CEO.

In 2005, Pinault Printemps Redoute shortened its name to PPR. Pinault has three children; his son, François-Henri Pinault, was named the company's new face and CEO.

Source: Kering

Under his son's direction, the company continued to acquire brands, with a special interest in luxury fashion houses ...

Under his son's direction, the company continued to acquire brands, with a special interest in luxury fashion houses ...

Source: Kering

... and was renamed the Kering luxury group in 2013.

... and was renamed the Kering luxury group in 2013.

Source: Kering

The new Kering company sold its remaining shares of PUMA last year, thus completing Pinault's final transformation to a luxury-only group.

The new Kering company sold its remaining shares of PUMA last year, thus completing Pinault's final transformation to a luxury-only group.

Source: New York Times, CNBC

Pinault's son is an active member of the fashion community, regularly attending fashion shows ...

Pinault's son is an active member of the fashion community, regularly attending fashion shows ...

Source: Kering

... along with red carpets with his wife, actress Salma Hayek.

... along with red carpets with his wife, actress Salma Hayek.

Source: Business Insider

The two married in 2009.

The two married in 2009.

Source: CBS News

Their daughter, Valentina, is one of Pinault's grandchildren ...

Their daughter, Valentina, is one of Pinault's grandchildren ...

Source: Reuters

... along with Francois-Henri's son from a previous marriage, also named François Pinault.

... along with Francois-Henri's son from a previous marriage, also named François Pinault.

Source: Reuters

Pinault and his son and daughter-in-law are sometimes seen at soccer games. Pinault currently owns Stade Rennais soccer club, based in Brittany near his hometown.

Pinault and his son and daughter-in-law are sometimes seen at soccer games. Pinault currently owns Stade Rennais soccer club, based in Brittany near his hometown.

Source: Reuters

Pinault has also sponsored French swimmer Laure Manaudou.

Pinault has also sponsored French swimmer Laure Manaudou.

Source: Reuters

Along with his professional sports endeavors, Pinault currently owns the Château Latour vineyard ...

Along with his professional sports endeavors, Pinault currently owns the Château Latour vineyard ...

Source: New York Times, Variety

... has holdings in Vail Ski Resort in Colorado ...

... has holdings in Vail Ski Resort in Colorado ...

Source: Britannica

... and owns the iconic Christie's auction house through Groupe Artémis, his holding company, otherwise known as Artemis, S.A.

... and owns the iconic Christie's auction house through Groupe Artémis, his holding company, otherwise known as Artemis, S.A.

Source: Britannica, The Guardian

Originally founded in 1766 by James Christie, the luxury auction giant has locations in London, New York, Paris, and other major cities. In 2017, Christie's sales totaled $6.6 billion.

Originally founded in 1766 by James Christie, the luxury auction giant has locations in London, New York, Paris, and other major cities. In 2017, Christie's sales totaled $6.6 billion.

Source: Christie's

Pinault purchased the company in 1998, and has served as a chairman since 2017.

Pinault purchased the company in 1998, and has served as a chairman since 2017.

Source: CNN

On top of his involvement with Christie's, Pinault is regarded as one of the biggest private art collectors in the world ...

On top of his involvement with Christie's, Pinault is regarded as one of the biggest private art collectors in the world ...
Source: Business Insider

... and has taken part in many art events over the years, both public and private.

... and has taken part in many art events over the years, both public and private.
Source: Reuters

Pinault has come to collect historic pieces, along with more contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol.

Pinault has come to collect historic pieces, along with more contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol.
Source: Reuters

Pinault owns the Palazzo Grassi art gallery in Venice ...

Pinault owns the Palazzo Grassi art gallery in Venice ...

Source: Reuters

... and can be found on the Venice canals, arriving at gallery openings and special events by boat.

... and can be found on the Venice canals, arriving at gallery openings and special events by boat.

Source: Reuters

Most recently, the Pinault family made headlines for their announcement of a contemporary art gallery supplied by their Pinault Foundation at the historic Bourse du Commerce in Paris.

Most recently, the Pinault family made headlines for their announcement of a contemporary art gallery supplied by their Pinault Foundation at the historic Bourse du Commerce in Paris.

Source: Reuters, The Guardian, New York Times

Pinault is supplying the $55 million dollars for renovations, which will be headed by Tadao Ando, along with his impressive collection, which includes over 3,000 works of art.

Pinault is supplying the $55 million dollars for renovations, which will be headed by Tadao Ando, along with his impressive collection, which includes over 3,000 works of art.

Source: Reuters, New York Times

Along with his circle of high-profile artists, Pinault is close friends with former French president Jacques Chirac. The Guardian previously reported that Pinault was one of the few people to have the president's personal phone number.

Along with his circle of high-profile artists, Pinault is close friends with former French president Jacques Chirac. The Guardian previously reported that Pinault was one of the few people to have the president's personal phone number.

Source: The Guardian, Reuters

Pinault has been married to his wife Maryvonne Pinault since 1970.

Pinault has been married to his wife Maryvonne Pinault since 1970.

Source: Bloomberg

The couple recently entered the luxury cruise and yacht business, purchasing the cruise line Ponant on Maryvonne's suggestion.

The couple recently entered the luxury cruise and yacht business, purchasing the cruise line Ponant on Maryvonne's suggestion.

Source: Bloomberg

The Pinaults own multiple houses, such as a mansion in London ...

The Pinaults own multiple houses, such as a mansion in London ...

Source: Business Insider, The Telegraph

... and in 2013, he purchased a Bel Air home from late celebrity hairstylist Vidal Sassoon.

... and in 2013, he purchased a Bel Air home from late celebrity hairstylist Vidal Sassoon.

Source: Business Insider, Wall Street Journal

Though Pinault is 82 years old, he still serves as director of Artemis S.A., a chairman of Christie's, and honorary chairman of his Kering giant.

Though Pinault is 82 years old, he still serves as director of Artemis S.A., a chairman of Christie's, and honorary chairman of his Kering giant.

Source: Bloomberg

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