Who is Bernard Arnault?

Bernard Arnault is a French investor, art collector, and business magnate who was the richest person in the world in January 2023. Arnault is also the co-founder and chairman of the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Arnault is among the wealthiest people on earth.

Education and early career

In 1971, Arnault graduated from the École Polytechnique – France’s leading engineering school – and started work at his father’s construction company. Five years later, he convinced his father to liquidate the construction division and enter real estate instead. 

Arnault become chief executive of the new company known as Férinel in 1977, which by that time was a developer of specialty vacation accommodation. In 1979, Arnault ultimately succeeded his father as president.

Boussac Saint-Frères

By 1984, Arnault was a young real estate developer. 

He heard that the French government was on the hunt for someone to take over Boussac Saint-Frères, a bankrupt retail and textile conglomerate that owned department store chain Le Bon Marché and luxury brand Christian Dior, among other assets.

With the assistance of friend and financier Antoine Bernheim, Arnault purchased the company for $80 million. Over the next two years, Arnault fired over 9,000 employees and sold Boussac’s textile operations for $500 million.

Buoyed by his initial success and return on investment, Arnault then embarked on a buying spree to build a new company around the Christian Dior label.


This spree started when Arnault was invited to invest in LVMH by company chairman Henri Racamier. After making a joint-venture investment with Guinness PLC, Arnault ousted Racamier in 1990 and went on the search for acquisitions.

LVMH has since completed deals for numerous companies such as Marc Jacobs, Sephora, Givenchy, Tag Heuer, Bulgari, Tiffany & Co., and the Gucci Group. Ultimately, over 70 luxury brands would find themselves under the LVMH banner by the end of 2021.

According to Forbes, Arnault visits as many as 25 stores every Saturday – including those of his competitors. In LVMH stores, he is known to suggest improvements to staff and may even reconfigure product displays.

Other pursuits

Aside from luxury brand acquisitions, Arnault is also an investor in web companies such as, Zebank (Prudential), and Netflix. He also owns around 10% of Carrefour, the largest supermarket chain in France and the second-largest in the world for food distribution.

More recently, in 2008, he ventured into the yacht business with the purchase of Princess Yachts. LVHM also acquired the luxury yacht builder Royal Van Lent that same year.

In 2014, Arnault turned his attention elsewhere, working with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry to design and construct the Fondation Louis Vuitton art museum in Paris.

Key takeaways:

  • Bernard Arnault is a French investor, art collector, and business magnate who was the richest person in the world in January 2023. Arnault is also the co-founder and chairman of the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.
  • Arnault joined his father’s construction company out of university and convinced him to pivot from construction to real estate. After becoming president, Arnault learned that the French government wanted someone to take over Boussac Saint-Frères, a bankrupt retail and textile conglomerate.
  • Arnault embarked on a massive restructuring at Boussac to reverse its fortunes. He sold off its textile arm and used the funds to take a controlling stake in LVMH. From that point onward, the company has acquired over 70 luxury brands.

Read Also: LVMH Subsidiaries.

Read Next: LVMH Business Model, Kering Business Model, Prada Business Model.

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