Bernard Arnault: The Billionaire Who Built the World's Largest Fashion Empire
Who is Bernard Arnault? Bernard Arnault, also known as the Pope of Fashion, became the second richest man in the world by overtaking Bill Gates, according to data recently announced by Bloomberg.
Arnault, chairman and CEO of Louis Vuitton-Möet Hennesy, is a true art lover. The life of Arnault, who brought Christian Dior back to life and built a multi-billion dollar fashion empire, is fraught with the challenges he has overcome.
Who is Bernard Arnault?
Bernard Jean Etienne Arnault, who was born on March 5, 1949 in Roubaix, on the northern border of France, completed his primary and secondary education in Roubaix and Lille, respectively. Arnault went to Paris for his undergraduate education and graduated from Ecole Polytechnique University in 1971.
After finishing his school, Arnault started working as an engineer at his family's construction company Ferret-Savinel, changing the face and course of the company in just three years. The company, which made a breakthrough in the real estate field under the name Férinel and made a lot of profit, showed everyone what Arnault can do. What he did for Arnault, who took over the management of the company and his father's chair at a very young age of 30, was not enough and he set sail for new seas.
After leaving Ferinel in 1984, Arnault bought Boussac, a textile company that was about to collapse. After the acquisition, Arnault sold all of the company's assets, holding only the Bon Marché chain of stores and the Christian Dior brand. Although it was a very risky move at the time, everyone agrees that it was one of the key investments that brought Arnault to its current position.
Two long-established family companies, Möet Hennessy and Louis Vuitton, who decided to merge in 1987, went through a very painful process of building a partnership, while Bernard Arnault came to the rescue of these two giants as a mediator. Funded by the famous Irish brewer, the businessman became the largest shareholder of LVMH in 1987. Within two years, Arnault, who became the company's chairman and CEO, managed to assume all authority.
Investing in luxury consumption in different sectors, Arnault has created Céline, which focused on leather products in 1988, leather men's clothing company Berluti and Kenzo fashion house in 1993, Guerlain, which was in the perfumery sector in 1994, and another leather product in 1996. manufacturer Loewe, Sephora, which produces cosmetics in 1997, famous shirt manufacturer Thomas Pink in 1999, Emilio Pucci fashion house in 2000 and important brands such as Fendi, DKNY and the famous store named La Samaritaine LVMH in 2001. He succeeded in winning his group. Arnault, who is a fan of luxury consumer brands, surprised everyone in 1993 and bought the newspaper "La Tribune". Immediately after disposing of this newspaper, he bought "Les Echos" and "Le Parisien" and continued to stay in this sector.
LVMH, a highly active and powerful French group in France, opened to America at the request of Bernard Arnault and made a solid entry into this new market. The 23-storey LVMH tower, made of glass with modern lines to suit a fashion giant, was opened on 57th Street in New York in 1999. The first two floors of the tower serving as the administration building are used as Christion Dior stores.
Arnault tried to break the monopoly of Christi and Sotheby in the industry by purchasing the British art auction house Philips (owned by François Pinault) in 1999. He then attempted to buy Sotheby's in 2001, but this attempt failed. After that, Arnault, who bought the Tajan auction house, did not continue to compete, thinking he could not break this monopoly a few years later. Until 2015, the businessman who invested heavily in the German auction site Auctionata showed his competitors that he did not give up in this sector.
Like all human beings, Arnault has made mistakes. Arnault has invested heavily in the dotcom bubble, buying shares in MP3.com and eBay. He then created an internet fund called Europ @ web to support initiatives in Europe, with $ 91 million in savings. Realizing that things would not go the way they wanted, Arnault shut down this company, cashing out his shares in several companies and left the dotcom bubble with minimal damage. Moreover, not all of their investments came to fruition. Arnault managed to invest in 1999 when Netflix was still a DVD rental company.
Having loved skiing with his family, Arnault showed his business acumen here as well, and in 2006 he launched the "Cheval Blanc" ski center in Courchevel, which has a two Michelin star restaurant, under the LVMH group name. French West Indies, Maldives and St. Arnault, who has established hotels in Tropez, continues to prepare for a hotel to be established in Paris next year.
Like every billionaire in the world, Bernard Arnault owns a mega yacht. But when it comes to luxury consumption, you realize that Arnault doesn't like being just a customer. Arnault, which added Princess Yachts and Royal Van Lent shipyard to the LVMH group for $ 257 million in 2008, built Symphony, a 101-meter mega-yacht worth about 152 million.
Arnault decided to open the doors of LVMH to visitors at the suggestion of his son Antoine in 2011. Many fashion houses from Louis Vuitton workshops to Fendi's Italian Civilization Palace were opened to the public during the trips organized under the name of "Les Journées Particulieres" (special days). The fact that 18,000 people visited these houses during the trip last year reveals the great interest shown.
The emergence of Arnault's application to Belgium for dual citizenship had been on the agenda of the country for a long time, in 2012, when the French government was discussing the 75% income tax application for those who earn $ 1.13 million and more, which is now shelved. Stating that he did not apply for dual citizenship to avoid taxation, Arnault announced to the public that he withdrew his application as "an indication of his loyalty to France and his faith in his future" and emphasized that every French should do his "share" for his country.
Arnault, which contributes to the economies of many countries with its investments, received the respect it deserves from the management layer. In 2011, he was honored with the "Legion d'Honneur", the highest state honor medal of the Government of France. Also, in 2013, thanks to the success of LVMH-owned British companies such as Thomas Pink and Glenmorangie and his contributions to the economy, Arnault was awarded the British Imperial Order with the rank of Commander Knight.
Having realized the idea of his daughter Delphine, Arnault began distributing the Young Fashion Designers LVMH Award in 2013. A total of 5000 young fashion designers attended this organization with a 341 thousand dollar award and the dream of working at LVMH. Working for the future of his group of companies, Arnault announced that he has created an incentive program for 50 promising international start-ups called “La Maison Des Startups”.
In 2014, 12 glass sailboats intended to look like "transparent clouds" were built in Paris by the Louis Vuitton Foundation with the help of $ 135 million from the LVMH group. The design of the project was undertaken by the famous architect Frank Gehry. Arnault aims to build a cultural center where exhibitions and concerts can be held in an unused area near the building. The cultural center is expected to open in 2020.
Contesting competition, Arnault made a radical decision in 2014 to sell his shares in Hermès and announced that he would not participate in such a stock race for five years. With Arnault's move, the four-year race to capture Hermès, full of blackmail, illegitimate deals, and hostility, came to an end.
Arnault, who was Dior's largest shareholder for a long time, announced that it was the sole owner of the company in 2017, with a $ 13 billion deal. Arnault, who immediately added Christian Dior to the LVMH group, became Europe's richest man with this move.
By the end of 2018, the LVMH group announced that it had purchased Belmond, a luxury hotel chain and tour company, for $ 3.2 billion. Belmond, formerly known as the Orient-Express, has a 40-year history based on the acquisition of Hotel Ciprani in Venice. The hotel chain, which has grown rapidly since then, now has a valuable accumulation of experience in 46 hotels and train and river tours.
Anne Dewavrin and Bernard Arnault entered the world house in 1973, but their marriage lasted only 13 years. The couple had two children from this marriage, Delphine and Antoine. After marrying Canadian pianist Hélène Mercier, Arnault had three children, Alexandre, Frédéric and Jean, from this marriage. The couple now lives a happy life in Paris.
Four of Arnault's five children found their way into LVMH. Antoine (left) serves as chairman of the board of directors at Loro Piana and general manager of Berluti. Delphine (second from left), who is expected to take his father's seat, works as acting president at Louis Vuitton. Alexandre (right), managing director of Rimowa.
A true art lover, Arnault is also a solid collector. Arnault says the first piece of the collection was a Monet painting he bought in the early eighties, with thousands of modern and contemporary art in his inventory, including works by Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.
$ 224 million of LVMH's aid, following the fire that broke down last April and destroyed the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral, is a reflection of Arnault's benevolent personality. LVMH called this aid the show "Solidarity Against National Tragedy".
We know that Steve Jobs consulted with Arnault when considering opening Apple stores, although it was a somewhat unusual collaboration. According to Arnault, Jobs said exactly himself: "Bernard, you know, I don't know if the iPhone will still be successful in fifty years, but I'm sure everyone will drink your Dom Pérignon."
Speaking of Steve Jobs' admiration for Arnault's work, it is worth mentioning that Arnault also admires Swiss tennis star Roger Federer. Referring to Federer as the "living god" at an invitation to the Möet Chandon wine company, of which Federer was an advertising ambassador, Arnault had the chance to team up with Federer and play a tennis match against his own sons.
It is unquestionable that the LVMH group is one of the most successful companies in the luxury consumer sector. Within this group, it consists of approximately seventy companies serving in different sectors, from TAG Heuer and Bulgari to Dom Pérignon. Stating that he was criticized very much for gathering many different companies under the same roof when he started to work, Arnault says that he is very satisfied that other companies now take his model as an example.
As we leave behind a wonderful year for LMVH, Bloomberg announced that Arnault is the second richest man in the world. According to Bloomberg's data, Arnault managed to add $ 39 billion to his assets, making the biggest jump among the world's 500 richest names. If we look at the large donations made by Gates, the name behind Arnault, who currently ranks second with his assets of $ 107.6 billion, we can say that Arnault will keep his place for a long time.