Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault (nationality French-born 5 March 1949) is a French business magnate, investor, and art collector. He is the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury goods company.
Arnault and his family have an estimated net worth of US$240 billion as of April 2023, according to Forbes, making him the wealthiest person in the world
The early life of Bernard Arnault
Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault was born on 5 March 1949 in Roubaix. His mother, Marie-Josèphe Savinel, daughter of Étienne Savinel, had a “fascination for Dior“.
His father, manufacturer Jean Léon Arnault, a graduate of École Centrale Paris, owned the civil engineering company Ferret-Savine
Arnault was educated at the Lycée Maxence Van Der Meersch in Roubaix, and the Lycée Faidherbe in Lille.
In 1971, he graduated from the École Polytechnique, France’s leading engineering school, and began work for his father’s company.
Three years later, after he convinced his father to shift the focus of the company to real estate, Ferret-Savinel sold the industrial construction division and was renamed Ferinel.
Following the acquisition of a textile company and relocation of its headquarters, the company renamed the real estate branch to the George V Group.
1971–1987: Professional start
Arnault began his career in 1971, at Ferret-Savinel, and was its president from 1978 to 1984. In 1984, Arnault, then a young real estate developer, heard that the French government was set to choose someone to take over the Boussac Saint-Frères empire, a textile and retail conglomerate that owned Christian Dior.
With the help of Antoine Bernheim, a senior partner of Lazard Frères, Arnault acquired the Financière Agache, a luxury goods company.
He became the CEO of Financière Agache and subsequently won the bidding war for Boussac Saint-Frères, buying the group for a ceremonial one franc and effectively taking control of Boussac Saint-Frères.
Along with Christian Dior, Boussac’s assets included the department store Le Bon Marché, the retail shop Conforama, and the nappy manufacturer Peaudouce.
After Arnault bought Boussac, he laid off 9,000 workers in two years, after which he acquired the nickname “The Terminator
The LVMH Young Fashion Designer was created as an international competition open to students from fine-arts schools
In 1973, he married Anne Dewavrin, together having two children, Delphine and Antoine They separated in 1990.In 1991, he married Hélène Mercier, a Canadian concert pianist, and together had three children, Alexandre, Frédéric, and Jean. Arnault and Mercier live in Paris.
All five children—Delphine, Antoine, Alexandre, Frédéric, and Jean—have official roles in brands controlled by Arnault, along with his niece Stephanie Watine Arnault
Alexandre is the EVP of Tiffany & Co, Frédéric is the CEO of TAG Heuer, and Jean is the Director of Marketing and Development at Louis Vuitton. Since 2010, Arnault’s daughter Delphine has been the partner of Xavier Niel
In April 1999, he became the richest person in fashion, topping Zara‘s Amancio Ortega. In 2016, Arnault was paid €7.8 million as the CEO of the LVMH group.In July 2019, Arnault became the second-richest man in the world, with a net worth of $103 billion.
Arnault briefly surpassed Jeff Bezos to become the richest person in the world in December 2019, and again for a short time in January 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Arnault saw his wealth shrink by $30 billion as sales of luxury goods plummeted
On 5 August 2021, he regained the status of the wealthiest man in the world, with his net worth climbing to $198.4 billion. This occurred as sales of LVMH‘s luxury goods surged in China and other parts of Asia.
He is listed as “Bernard Arnault & family” on the Forbes Billionaires list. Forbes estimated the Bernard Arnault & family fortune to be $158 billion in 2022, positioning him ahead of Bill Gates.
Arnault owned the 70 m (230 ft) converted research vessel Amadeus, which was sold in late 2015
In October 2022 Arnault stated that LVMH sold its private jet after a Twitter user began to track its flights and stated he began renting private aircraft for his personal and business flights instead.The aircraft was a Bombardier Global 7500 which was registered F-GVMA
Awards and honors
- Grand Officier of the Légion d’Honneur (France, 14 July 2011)
- Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France)
- Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Italy, 2006)
- Medal of Pushkin (Russia, 2017)
- Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (UK, 2012)
- The Woodrow Wilson Award for Global Corporate Citizenship (2011)
- The Museum of Modern Art‘s David Rockefeller Award (March 2014)