Meet Bernard Arnault, the richest person in Europe, who's worth $80 billion and controls LVMH, the world's largest maker of luxury goods
- Bernard Arnault is the richest person in Europe, worth an estimated $80.8 billion.
- The 69-year-old French businessman is chairman and CEO of LVMH, the world's largest maker of luxury goods.
- LVMH brought in nearly $53 billion in revenue in 2018.
- Four of Arnault's five children work at LVMH brands that include Louis Vuitton, Rimowa, Berluti, and TAG Heuer.
French businessman Bernard Arnault is the richest person in Europe. He's worth an estimated $80.8 billion, according to Bloomberg.
As the chairman and CEO of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, known as LVMH, the world's largest maker of luxury goods, Arnault is also the richest person in the fashion industry. LVMH sells products that include Louis Vuitton handbags, Dom Perignon Champagne, TAG Heuer watches, and Rimowa luxury suitcases.
Arnault is the fourth-richest person in the world after Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett.
Read more: Meet the Wertheimers, the secretive French brothers worth $42 billion who control Chanel, own vineyards in France and Napa Valley, and breed racehorses
Now, four of Arnault's five children are part of the LVMH empire. His daughter, Delphine, is the executive vice president at Louis Vuitton and apparent heiress to LVMH.
Arnault, who lives in Paris and has a vacation home on the French Riviera, attended one of the most prestigious engineering schools in France and was named CEO of luxury goods holding company, Financiere Agache, in 1984, according to Bloomberg.
Here's a look at Arnault's career, life, and family.
Bernard Arnault is the richest person in Europe, worth an estimated $80.8 billion.
The 69-year-old French businessman is the chairman and CEO of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, known as LVMH, a position he's held since 1989. LVMH is the world's largest maker of luxury goods.
The business is a family affair; four of Arnault's five children hold positions at LVMH brands.
Arnault is the fourth-richest person in the world, following Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett.
Arnault owns a 96.5% stake in Christian Dior, which controls 41% of LVMH.
LVMH, which recorded more than $53 billion in revenue in 2018, is made up of 70 companies that sell products such as Louis Vuitton leather goods ...
... TAG Heuer watches ...
... and Dom Perignon Champagne. In 2018, LVMH brought in $53 billion in revenue.
Arnault comes from the northern French town of Roubaix.
He studied engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique, a prestigious school in Paris that counts three former French presidents and three Nobel Prize winners among its alumni.
After graduating, Arnault spent a stint working for his father's construction company, Ferret-Savinel, before entering the luxury goods industry. He became CEO of luxury goods holding company, Financiere Agache, in 1984.
Arnault married Anne Dewavrin in 1973 and they had two children together before separating in 1990. Arnault remarried to Helene Mercier, a Canadian concert pianist, in 1991.
He reportedly wooed her by playing Chopin and other classical composers for her.
The French billionaire and his wife live on Paris's Left Bank south of the Seine River, a historic area that includes neighborhoods such as the Latin Quarter and St. Germain-des-Prés.
In their home, Arnault keeps a collection of modern and contemporary art from artists that include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan, Andy Warhol, and Pablo Picasso.
Arnault has five children: two with his first wife and three with his current wife.
Antoine Arnault and Delphine Arnault are his two children from his first marriage.
Delphine, Bernard's oldest daughter, is the apparent heiress to the LVMH empire.
She started her career at American consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. in Paris and is now the executive vice president at Louis Vuitton.
In January 2019, Delphine became the youngest member of LVMH's executive committee at age 43.
Delphine married Italian wine heir Alessandro Vallarino Gancia in 2005 in what Forbes called "France's wedding of the year." The couple divorced in 2010.
She now reportedly lives with tech billionaire Xavier Niel and has one daughter. But Delphine is notoriously private about her personal life. "I'm quite discreet," she told the Financial Times in a rare 2014 interview. "I think I’d rather focus on my work."
Delphine's younger brother, Antoine, is chief executive of menswear label Berluti and chairman of the cashmere label Loro Piana, both LVMH brands.
In addition to those roles, Antoine was named head of communication and image for LVMH in June 2018.
His partner is supermodel Natalia Vodianova, whom he reportedly met on a shoot for a 2008 Louis Vuitton campaign when he was the brand's head of communications.
The couple lives in Paris with their two children and Vodianova's three children from a previous marriage.
Alexandre, the son of Bernard Arnault and Helene Mercier, is the CEO of Rimowa, a German luggage brand owned by LVMH.
The luggage company he runs brings in more than $455 million in annual revenue.
Alexandre travels frequently between Cologne, Germany, where Rimowa luggage is made, London, his hometown of Paris, and Los Angeles, where Rimowa recently opened a new store.
He's reportedly friends with Evan Spiegel, the chief executive of Snap, Snapchat's parent company. Spiegel called Alexandre "a really creative guy," according to The New York Times. "He's constantly thinking about the brand and how to express that."
Alexandre's younger brother, Frederic, also has a role at LVMH. He joined the conglomerate as the strategy and digital director at Swiss luxury watch brand TAG Heuer, LVMH's largest watch brand, in 2018.
Frederic graduated from his father's alma mater, École Polytechnique in Paris, and interned at Facebook and consulting firm McKinsey before joining LVMH as the temporary head of connected technologies at TAG Heuer in 2017.
Arnault's youngest son, Jean, is the only one of his children not involved at LVMH.
Like many billionaires do, Arnault travels by private jet.
He owns a sprawling vacation villa in glitzy Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera ...
... where he has been seen enjoying some tennis matches.
Arnault has also reportedly spent at least $96.4 million on residential properties in Los Angeles, in the Beverly Hills, Trousdale Estates, and Hollywood Hills neighborhoods.
Arnault has rubbed shoulders with some of the world's influential figures, in the fashion world and otherwise. In 2017, he met President Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York City right before Trump's inauguration to discuss expanding LVMH factories in the US.
He was photographed at parties with Lady Diana, Princess of Wales.
Arnault was reportedly friends with Apple founder Steve Jobs, who once said to Arnault: "You know Bernard, I don’t know if in 50 years my iPhone will still be a success but I can tell you, I'm sure everybody will still drink your Dom Pérignon."
Former Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein once called Arnault "a complete visionary," adding that he "saw the increase of wealth in the world."
Arnault is reportedly longtime friends with former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Arnault was a witness at the former president's wedding to Carla Bruni.
Here, Arnault can be seen shaking hands with Vladimir Putin during the Russian president's 2003 visit to the Chateau Cheval Blanc vineyard — owned by LVMH — in France.
Arnault considered legendary late designer and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld a good friend. "The death of this dear friend deeply saddens me, my wife and my children," Arnault said in a statement. "We loved and admired him deeply. Fashion and culture has lost a great inspiration."
Arnault has a longstanding public rivalry with Francois Pinault, the second-richest man in France, who's worth $34.3 billion.
Pinault is the founder and CEO of French luxury brand Kering, which owns brands including Gucci and Yves St. Laurent. The billionaire also owns Christie's auction house.
Arnault's LVMH originally tried to acquire a majority stake in Gucci in 1999, but Pinault ultimately snatched up the brand.
Over the years, Arnault has built LVMH into the largest luxury conglomerate in the world and earned himself an imposing nickname: "the wolf in the cashmere coat."
He's behind the creation of Fondation Louis Vuitton, a Frank Gehry-designed contemporary art museum and performance space in Paris that opened in 2014.
As the world's fourth-richest person, Arnault is getting richer at an astonishing rate. In January 2019, he made $4.3 billion in a single day after LVMH shares surged 6.9%.
And between the end of January and February 27, 2019, he added another $3.9 billion to his fortune, bringing his total net worth to only $2.3 billion less than Warren Buffett's.
Arnault has never ranked higher than fourth on the Bloomberg wealth ranking, but at his current rate, that might soon change.
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