JEveryone will be “famous for 15 minutes” – so Andy Warhol once predicted the democratization of the star system and the future of the media community. French luxury mogul Bernard Arnault is best known for being the lead owner and CEO of the world’s largest luxury company, LVMH, but at the start of the week he was also the richest man in the world, at least temporarily. Forbes magazine, known for its ratings, reported that Arnault briefly owned more assets than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at the start of Monday afternoon: $ 186.3 billion for Arnaud compared to $ 186 billion for Bezos. Things turned around, but the only European rise far and wide amid tech founders such as Bezos, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg is definitely noteworthy.
Warhol might not have had managers like the 72-year-old Frenchman in mind when faced with his prophecy of celebrities in 1968. However, it’s not in vain to mention the two at the same time. Arnault, also an aspiring art collector, once called Andy Warhol “the most emblematic artist of the twentieth century.” Eight works by the inventor of Pop Art adorn the collection of the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Bois de Boulogne in Paris. Arnault liked to have one of his Warhol handbags – just like Jeff Koons and Richard Prince or Takashi Murakami. “Good work is the best art,” in a sentence like Andy Warhol, the two might have agreed.
However, it is also possible that Arnault’s jump to the top of the richest people isn’t just a short-lived phenomenon. Behind the seemingly unstoppable rise of luxury goods manufacturer LVMH, which owns 75 brands. Leather bags by Louis Vuitton and fashion items from Dior make up the main roles in the collection, along with watches, jewelry, spirits, wine and champagne. LVMH has managed to give a noble and still democratic look to its goods through global distribution.
His thirst does not quench
Not everyone can be famous for just 15 minutes, but now they can also count on the luxury class. Arnault refuted the old rule that exclusive goods should be scarce. His $ 1 billion investment in marketing and communications each year ensure customers give in to the false belief that they own something rare. The pandemic has slowed but not stopped the victorious progress of the luxury goods manufacturers, which is not just benefiting LVMH. When stores were closed, customers ordered online.
Arnault’s hunger for expansion is far from being told. Recently, his company acquired more than 10 percent of Italian shoe manufacturer Tod’s. It promises to buy with minority stakes to take full advantage of the fishing techniques popular with the French. Tiffany from the United States was his last full purchase last year.
Investors have been fueling the stock’s rally for years. Today the LVMH, in which the Arnault family owns 47 percent of the capital and 63 percent of the voting rights, is worth 322 billion euros on the exchange – no company in Europe is more expensive. The most valuable German company, SAP, does not even get half of it.
Arnault’s influence is not only economic, but political as well. Little by little he established a media empire in France that included everything from the most important French business newspaper “Les Echos” to the popular daily newspaper “Le Parisien”. Recently, he has also gained influence on media like “Paris Match” and radio station “Europe 1” through a stake in the Lagardère Group. Industrialist becomes a media mogul – Warhol was certainly fascinated by the phenomenon.
At the age of 72, Bernard Arnault’s successor was justified. But the answer is a big secret. The French, who built LVMH for decades, is strictly silent about how he rarely gives interviews at all. Arnault has five children from two marriages. Except for the youngest son, who is still studying, everyone works at LVMH. They attended the best schools and all received musical instructions.
Arnault’s wife, Canadian pianist Helen Mercier, and her husband, who also can skillfully play the piano, wanted it this way. Little by little, children assumed positions of responsibility in the company. In order to secure the continuity of his life and the wealth of his family, the father does not want to take the risk. He tests the kids and waits while he’s still fit. His daughter, Delphine Arnault, said of him not long ago: “He works 24 hours. When he sleeps, he dreams of new ideas for the company.”