Bernard Arnault is the chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest maker of luxury goods. The billionaire controls about half of LVMH, which had revenue of 79.2 billion euros ($83.4 billion) in 2022. It sells products including Louis Vuitton leather goods, TAG Heuer watches and Dom Perignon champagne.
The majority of Arnault’s fortune is derived from a 97.5% stake in Christian Dior, the luxury fashion house. He holds the shares through entities associated with Groupe Familial Arnault, according to Dior’s 2022 annual report. Bernard Arnault is credited with all shares held by the family holding company in Dior, as well its other holdings, to reflect his status as founder and patriarch.
Christian Dior controls 41.4% of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury-goods maker, according to Dior’s 2022 annual report. These shares aren’t included in the analysis because the value is already captured. The family holds an additional 6.2% of LVMH, according to its 2022 registration document, and these shares are included in the net wealth calculation.
Liabilities in the analysis include debts held by Arnault’s family holding company, associated with the purchase and restructuring on public shareholdings. The value of his cash holdings is based on an analysis of dividends, market performance, insider transactions, taxes and charitable contributions.
Molly Morse, a spokeswoman for Arnault at Kekst & Co., said the billionaire declined to comment on his net worth calculation.
Education: Ecole Polytechnique
Bernard Arnault was born in the northern French town of Roubaix in 1949. After graduating with an engineering degree from Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, he joined his family’s company and persuaded his father to exit its construction business and focus on real estate.
Arnault entered the luxury goods market in 1984, when he took over the bankrupt textile group that owned Christian Dior. He sold all of the company’s other businesses and used the proceeds to buy a controlling stake in LVMH. Other acquisitions include Fendi, TAG Heuer and Bulgari. He sought and failed to buy auction house Sotheby’s and retailer Gucci, which he lost to rival billionaire Francois Pinault in 2010.
LVMH agreed to relinquish its 23% stake in Hermes to its shareholders in September 2014, ending a four-year battle to gain control of the luxury label. He remained its biggest individual shareholder until July 2017, when he sold most of his shares as part of a $13.2 billion deal to consolidate his control of Christian Dior.
The billionaire lives on Paris’s Left Bank with his second wife, concert pianist Helene Mercier. His art collection of modern and contemporary paintings includes pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.
Arnault sparked a debate over taxation in France in 2012 when Belgium’s government disclosed that he was seeking to become a Belgian citizen. Arnault said he intended to still pay taxes in France. His request was aimed at safeguarding a foundation he’d established in Belgium to “protect the financial interests and wealth” of his heirs. In April 2013, he withdrew his application as “a gesture of my attachment to France and my faith in its future.”
- 1949 Bernard Jean Etienne Arnault is born in Roubaix, France.
- 1971 Graduates from Ecole Polytechnique in Paris.
- 1971 Joins Ferret-Savinel, his family’s construction company.
- 1984 Named CEO of luxury goods holding company, Financiere Agache.
- 1989 Assumes control of LVMH and becomes chairman and CEO.
- 1999 Company makes an unsuccessful takeover bid for Gucci.
- 2012 Applies for Belgian citizenship, sparking French tax debate.
- 2013 Withdraws Belgian citizenship application, as “gesture” to France.
- 2013 LVMH acquires cashmere clothier Loro Piana for $2.6 billion.