Everyone will be “famous for 15 minutes” - this is how Andy Warhol once predicted the democratization of the star system and the future of the media society. The French luxury magnate Bernard Arnault is already famous as the main owner and CEO of the world's largest luxury company LVMH, but at the beginning of the week he was also the richest man in the world, at least temporarily. American magazine Forbes, known for its rankings, reported that Arnault briefly had more assets than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at the start of the afternoon on Monday: $ 186.3 billion for Arnault versus $ 186 billion for Bezos. Things turned around later, but what is remarkable is the rise of the only European far and wide in the midst of tech founders like Bezos,Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg definitely.

Christian Schubert

Business correspondent in Paris.

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    Warhol probably did not have managers like the 72-year-old French man in mind when he met his prophecy about mass celebrities in 1968.

    However, it is not absurd to mention the two in the same breath.

    Arnault, who is also an ambitious art collector, once called Andy Warhol “the most emblematic artist of the 20th century”.

    Eight works by the inventor of pop art adorn the collection of the Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.

    Arnault would have loved to have one of his handbags designed by Warhol - just like Jeff Koons, Richard Prince or Takashi Murakami have done.

    “Good business is the best art”, the two could have agreed on a sentence like this, which goes back to Andy Warhol.

    It is also possible, however, that Arnault's leap to the top of the richest people is not just a short-lived phenomenon.

    Behind this is the seemingly unstoppable rise of luxury goods manufacturer LVMH, which owns 75 brands.

    The leather bags from Louis Vuitton and the fashion items from Dior form the main roles in the group alongside watches, jewelry, spirits, wine and champagne.

    LVMH has managed to give its goods a touch of the noble and yet to democratize them by spreading them around the world.

    His thirst is not quenched

    Everyone can not only be famous for 15 minutes, but can now also count towards the luxury class. The old rule that exclusive goods must be scarce has been refuted by Arnault. Its billions in marketing and communications investments every year ensure that customers succumb to the mistaken belief that they own something rare. The pandemic has only slowed but not stopped the triumphant advance of luxury manufacturers, from which not only LVMH benefits. When the shops were closed, customers ordered online.

    Arnault's thirst for expansion is far from quenched.

    Most recently, his company took over 10 percent of the Italian shoe manufacturer Tod's.

    Buying in with minority stakes in order to then take full advantage is a popular hunting technique of the French.

    Tiffany from the United States was his last full purchase last year.

    Investors have been fueling and cheering the share's rise for years.

    Today LVMH, in which the Arnault family holds 47 percent of the capital and 63 percent of the voting rights, is worth 322 billion euros on the stock exchange - no company in Europe is more expensive.

    The most valuable German company, SAP, doesn't even get half of it.

    Arnault's influence is not only economic but also political. Little by little, he has built up a media empire in France that includes everything from the most important French business newspaper “Les Echos” to the popular daily newspaper “Le Parisien”. Recently he also secured influence on media such as “Paris Match” and the radio station “Europe 1” through a stake in the Lagardère Group. The industrialist becomes a media tycoon - Warhol would certainly have been fascinated by this phenomenon.

    At the age of 72, the question of Bernard Arnault's successor is justified. But the answer is a big secret. The Frenchman, who built LVMH over the decades, lays strict silence 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 have attended the best schools and have all been given musical instruction.

    Arnault's wife, the Canadian pianist Hélène Mercier, and her husband, who can also skillfully play the piano, wanted it that way. Little by little, the children have taken on positions of responsibility in the company. In order to secure the continuation of his life's work and the wealth of his family, the father does not want to take any risks. He tests the children and waits while he is still fit himself. 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. "