Sunday, January 26, 2020

‘The wolf in cashmere’.

French luxury goods magnate Bernard Arnault briefly toppled Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to become the richest person in the world. Now relegated back to second wealthiest in the world, Arnault remains the richest person in Europe. Arnault first dethroned Bezos on December 16, 2019. This triumph lasted even shorter, less than five hours, before Bezos returned to the top. It occurred after LVMH acquired luxury jewelry company Tiffany, causing their stocks to rise.

2019 was a good year for Arnault. The CEO of the LVMH group (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) earned an estimated profit of €35.1 billion over the course of the year. This breaks down as €4,020,307 every hour, or €66,700 a minute. He is one of only three people ever to make it into the exclusive centi-billionaires club, along with Bezos and Bill Gates. 

Arnault’s story is not exactly rags-to-riches. His father Jean Léon Arnault was a manufacturer and the owner of the civil engineering company, Ferret-Savinel.

The top-end luxury goods brands Moet Hennessy and Louis Vuitton  merged to form LVMH. Arnault started investing in this golden egg in 1987. He soon became its biggest shareholder. Then began one of the fiercest battles in French fashion as Arnault fought to oust first the former chairman Henry Racamier and then many of the top executives. He gained a reputation then for ruthlessness, along with the nickname ‘the wolf in cashmere’.
The company’s portfolio now features 75 brands, including fashion houses Christian Lacroix, Celine, Givenchy, Fendi, Marc Jacobs and Dior. It also involves wines and spirits, including champagne brand Dom Pérignon, cognac makers Hennessy, Glenmorangie Scottish whisky and New Zealand winemakers Cloudy Bay. There is jewelry with Bulgari and watches with Tag Heuer, along with beauty chainstore Sephora. The group extends to the famous Hotel Cipriani in Venice, a range of top hotels with Michelin starred restaurants called Cheval Blanc in Courchevel in the French Alps and the historic Paris department store Le Bon Marche. Their latest major acquisition was last November, when they agreed to buy luxury jeweler Tiffany for approximately €14.7 billion.
He himself own properties across the world and a private island in the Bahamas. He also owns art works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan, Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso.

Arnault is part of French Prime Minister Sarkozy’s inner circle; he had even been a witness at Sarkozy’s wedding in 1996. 

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