Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault is a French businessman and an art collector. He has been the chairman and chief executive of LVMH since 1989. In 2013, Forbes ranked him the 10th richest person in the world, with a net worth of $29 billion.
His father Jean Leon Arnault was a manufacturer and the owner of a civil engineering company, Ferret-Savinel. After graduating from the Maxence Van Der Meersch High School in Roubaix, Bernard Arnault was admitted to the elite École Polytechnique, where he completed an engineering degree in 1971.
After graduation, Arnault joined his father's company. In 1976, he convinced his father to liquidate the construction division of the company for 40 million French francs, and to change the focus of the company to real estate. Using the name Férinel, the new company developed a specialty holiday accommodation. Arnault became chief executive in 1977 and two years later, succeeded his father as president of the company.
In 1984, with the help of Antoine Bernheim, a senior partner of Lazard Frères et Cie., Arnault acquired Financière Agache, a luxury goods company. He became the chief executive of Financière Agache, and thereafter took control of Boussac, a textile company in turmoil. Boussac owned Christian Dior, the department store Le Bon Marché, the retail shop Conforama, and the diapers industrial Peaudouce. Arnault sold nearly all the company's assets, keeping only the prestigious Christian Dior brand and Le Bon Marché department store.
In 1987, shortly after the creation of LVMH, the new luxury group resulting from the merger between two companies, Arnault exploited a growing conflict between Alain Chevalier, Moët Hennessy's chief executive, and Henri Racamier, president of Louis Vuitton to take control of LVMH. The new group held property rights to Dior perfumes, which Bernard Arnault wanted to incorporate into Dior Couture.
In July 1988, Arnault fronted $1.5 billion to form a holding company with Guinness that held 24 percent of LVMH’s shares. Following rumours that the Louis Vuitton clan was buying LVMH’s stocks to form a “blocking minority”, Mr Arnault spent another $600 million to buy another 13.5 percent of LVMH, making him the principal shareholder. In January 1989, Arnault spent another $500 million to control a total of 43.5 percent of LVMH, and 35 percent of voting rights, thus reaching the “blocking minority” he needed to stop the dismantlement of the LVMH group. On 13 January 1989, he was unanimously elected chairman of the executive management board.
Since then, Bernard Arnault has led the company through an ambitious development plan, sometimes controversially, turning it into the largest luxury group in the world. Within an 11 year period, LVMH's market capitalisation has been multiplied by fifteen, while sales and profit have grown by 500 percent. The group now owns, among others, legendary luxury fashion labels Louis Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy, Céline, Berluti, Fendi, Kenzo, Marc Jacobs, and most recently, Loro Piana.
Chairman and Chief Executive 1989 - Present, Paris, France
Chief Executive 1985, Paris, France