Forbes ranking: Bernard Arnault is richer than Elon Musk

With his family he became the first fortune in the world at the head of Elon Musk, Bernard Arnault patiently built with LVMH (minority shareholder of challenges, editor’s note) a global luxury empire, from fashion to spirits, through iconic acquisitions that forged his reputation as a formidable and insatiable businessman. The 73-year-old Frenchman and his family rose, with 184 billion dollars, to the top of the Forbes ranking of the greatest fortunes in the world several days ago due to an erosion of the fortune of Elon Musk, boss of Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter.

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luxury and media

“A primordial quality in our family is patience”, confided Bernard Arnault, at the top of the Professional Fortunes ranking established by challenges🇧🇷 Ten years later, when LVMH’s annual turnover has more than doubled to over €64 billion, he declared on Radio Classique: “We can keep moving forward, but let’s be patient, there’s no rush.”

LVMH, world number one in luxury, has more than 75 brands (Louis Vuitton, Moët Hennessy, Kenzo, Guerlain, Fendi, Céline, Sephora, Bulgari, Tiffany after a year of tough negotiations, etc.) acquired over the years. The businessman has also invested in the French press (Les EchosLe ParisienRadio ClassiqueChallenges…) activities that he “would prefer to put on the side of sponsorship”, he assured during a Senate hearing in January 2022 where he also assumed that he had intervened to deprive the newspaper Liberation of advertising funding, guilty of a front page that had displeased him.

Christian Dior, the cornerstone of luxury

Born March 5, 1949 in Roubaix (Nord), Bernard Arnault began his career by joining his father’s public works company at the age of 22, leaving the Ecole Polytechnique and convincing him to convert it into real estate development. In 1981, after the election of François Mitterrand, he left for the United States where he stayed for three years. On his return, he bought the debt-ridden textile company Boussac, winning the bet from several serious competitors thanks to the promise to keep his job. However, it is a drastic social plan that he imposes on Boussac, keeping only a few activities, including the Christian Dior fashion house. He was then 35 years old.

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“My father, I surprised him when I came to see him by telling him that we’re going to reorient the family group and we’re going to try to invest in something more dynamic, Christian Dior,” he said recently on Radio Classique. Bernard Arnault has just laid the first stone of his luxury empire. To take over LVMH, resulting from the merger in 1987 between the trunk maker Louis Vuitton and the MoĂ«t-Hennessy wine and spirits group, Bernard Arnault took advantage of the rivalries between the two owner families, and took over the management of the company in 1989 at the deadline of… 17 lawsuits. “He is a tough but unparalleled negotiator, a visionary who knows how to surround himself and who in the end always achieves his objectives one way or another”, sums up Arnaud Cadart, portfolio manager at Flornoy.

flaws and criticism

Bernard Arnault’s trajectory is not, however, free of failures, as when his great rival François Pinault, at the head of the PPR (Pinault Printemps Redoute) that became Kering, 7and French professional fortune according to challenges, whispered to him in 1999 the Italian brand Gucci. Or when he tries, in vain, to get his hands on Hermès saddlery and leather goods, 3and French professional fortune according to challengesentering his capital masked.

His speech is rare. He doesn’t like publicity. This summer, while personalities’ private jet routes are tracked on social media, Bernard Arnault sells those of the LVMH group. “The result now is that nobody can know where I’m going because I rent planes,” he explains to Radio Classique. “It is the fate of French businessmen to incorporate – sometimes completely unjustifiably – criticism of the atmosphere, since the mentality a few years ago is a little anti-business”, he lamented in France 2 in 2016. a documentary “Thank you Boss!”, a satirical accusation against Bernard Arnault by François Ruffin, who, now an MP, still regularly targets him. In 2021, LVMH pays a €10 million fine to avoid prosecution in an investigation into a spying system.

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Bernard Arnault had given up on applying for Belgian nationality in 2013 and made his mea culpa, after having raised protests with this approach for several months, in the midst of a debate on taxation and tax exile for the richest. Bernard Arnault, whose five children work for LVMH and who, every week, tours the group’s Parisian brands (Louis Vuitton, Le Bon MarchĂ©, etc.), does not intend to hand over the reins right away. The age limit for the position of CEO of LVMH was extended to 80 years at the last general meeting. He also assured that his luxury empire will remain under family control. His eldest son, Antoine Arnault, was named last week as chief executive of the Christian Dior SE holding company, which controls LVMH, the world’s biggest luxury goods company.

Bernard Arnault with his wife HĂ©lène (Cg) and their children Antoine (3rd-d), Delphine (4th-d), Alexandre (l) and FrĂ©dĂ©ric (2nd-g) during the inauguration of the Jean Arnault campus at the EDHEC of Roubaix on 9 July 2021 (AFP/Archives – DENIS CHARLET)

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