Bernard Arnault, a French businessman and billionaire, born in 1949, chairs the board of directors and serves as CEO of the French giant LVMH, the largest luxury goods and products company in the world, which includes 75 other global brands.

He is the first businessman from outside America to top the list of the richest people in the world, with an estimated fortune of $171 billion, to become the richest man in the world in 2023, after removing US billionaire Elon Musk from the top of the list in early December 2022.

Birth and upbringing

Bernard Jean-Etienne Arnault was born on March 05, 1949 in Roubaix, in northern France, into a wealthy family.

His father is Jean-Léon Arnault and his mother is Marie-Joseph Savinel, daughter of Etienne Savinel, owner of the civil engineering company Ferret-Savinel.

Arnault married for the first time on May 5, 1973, to Anne Dufferin, and they had two children, Delphine, who holds the position of director of the “LVMH” group, and Antoine, who is the CEO of “Berluti” before Arnault separated from Dufferin in 1990.

Arnault married again on September 23, 1991, to Canadian Helen Mercier, a pianist from Quebec, and they had 3 children, Alexandre, who is CEO of Rimoa, and Frederic, who is CEO of TAG Heuer. Jean, who is the Director of Marketing and Development for Louis Vuitton watches.

LVMH President Alain Chevalier (center) with Henri Racamer (left) and Arnaud, President of Financiar Akash in 1988 (French)

Scientific study and training

After completing his studies at the "Maxence van der Mersch" high school in the city of "Roubaix" and then the preparatory departments at the "Vaidherb" high school in the city of "Lille", he joined the prestigious Polytechnic High School in Paris, from which he graduated as a civil engineer, and began his professional path in 1974 at the "Veret Savinel" company. which was run by his father, and which was owned by his maternal grandfather.

From the beginning, Arnault advised his father to sell the company's activities related to construction and public works for 40 million French francs, and to move into the field of real estate, by establishing a new company called "Férinel" that specialized in building tourist apartments.

Arnault became director of construction projects in the new company, then general manager in 1977 before becoming chairman of the board in 1978.

Arnault remained in this position until 1984, after which he became Chairman and CEO of Financière Agache SA and Christian Dior before reorganizing the Financier Akache Group in the framework of a development strategy based on Primarily on prestigious brands, and made "Dior" the cornerstone of this structured project.

In 1989, Arnault became the major shareholder of the LVMH group, making it the world's first leading group of luxury goods and products, and assumed the position of Chairman of its Board of Directors in January 1989.

Arnault is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of Groupe Arnault SE.

Through his family holding companies, he creates many investment funds around the world.

Arno became CEO of "Akash Finance" and "Christian Dior" in 1984 (agencies)

his career in the business world

Arnault left France in 1981, after the election of François Mitterrand as president, as he feared the latter's implementation of his socialist economic program.

He moved to the United States and founded Ferinel Inc.

He left the management of the French company "Vernel" to his close friend Michel Lefevre.

In 1984, Arnault returned to France and embarked on a major venture into business, when he invested almost all of his family's fortune, which was estimated at about 90 million francs, in order to acquire the "Financière Agache" company.

Acquiring it means owning the Boussac group, owned by the Willot brothers and specialized in the textile sector.

Many companies have joined the Boussac group, including Dior, with the exception of the perfume company, which has been separated from the group since the seventies of the twentieth century.

The Boussac group also owns the distribution brand Conforama, the department store Le Bon Marché and the diaper manufacturer Peaudouce.

This acquisition was a risky investment because the textile sector at the time was experiencing an economic crisis and none of the businessmen dared to invest in it.

This prompted the French state to grant large financial support (about 999.9 million francs) to the Boussac Group in 1982 and 1985, but this support angered the European Commission because it violated the rules of competition with the rest of the companies in the European region, which prompted Arnault to recover about 338 million francs.

Despite this support, the textile sector of Bosak Group continued to suffer from its economic crisis.

Which made Arnault decide to sell this sector to a competing organization that owns major brands, including Yves Saint-Laurent and Gucci.

On the other hand, the businessman injected an additional contribution of his own money amounting to 40 million francs for the benefit of the group, which gave him full control over the Boussac group, whose financial value in the stock market reached about 8 million francs in 1987.

Henry Recamer asked Arnault to buy shares in the "LVMH" group, which raised its profits and paved the way for major acquisitions (French)

LVMH Empire

After 1984, Arnault worked to unify the holding company "Christian Dior" and include the perfume and fashion industry under the same brand, given that Dior perfumes belonged to "Moët-Hennessy", that is, part of it became owned by the Christian Dior holding group. .

The group created a successful women's fragrance under the name "J'adore", which became a top seller in 2013 and remained the second most popular fragrance for the next two years.

On June 3, 1987, the two luxury groups Moët-Hennessy and Louis Vuitton merged and were joined by many other luxury brands.

And at the end of 1987, the new group suffered a financial crisis, and was looking for cash assets, which made Henry Recamier - CEO of "Louis Vuitton" at the time - asking Arno to buy more shares in the "LVMH" group.

In addition to the problem of cash flow, the "LVMH" group also suffered from leadership problems due to a dispute between the two boards of directors of the group.

At that time, Arnault launched an acquisition offer for the "LVMH" group, taking advantage of the group's instability, to become its largest shareholder, and then was unanimously elected Chairman of its Board of Directors.

Arno is one of the main investors in Netflix (Getty Images)

A few years later, the group's financial position improved and its profits multiplied significantly, which encouraged it to make acquisitions and buy other luxury companies, including the women's ready-to-wear and leather goods brand "Céline" and the men's ready-to-wear and leather goods brand "Berluti". and luxury perfume and ready-to-wear brand Kenzo.

The group continued the process of buying other brands in installments, such as "Guerlain, Loewe, Marc Jacobs, Thomas Pink, Sephora, Make Up For Ever, La Samaritan, Fendi, DKNY, Emilio Pucci."

In addition, the group strengthened its position in the world of wines, acquiring 38% of the capital of the Bordeaux vineyard called "Château d'Yquem" (Château d'Yquem) and two years later raised its stake in the capital of the plantation by 64% of the shares.

Accustomed to taking risks in investing, Arnault also experimented with the digital field, making some investments thanks to a holding company called Europe@web in the 1990s, where he invested in 3 companies.

The collapse of Internet stocks in 2000 prevented him from continuing the path of the digital economy, and he sold his shares in the three companies, but he invested in other companies such as the American "Netflix", in which Arnault remains the main investor.

In recent years, the LVMH Group has strengthened its position as a leading global luxury company by diversifying its investments, buying Princess Yachts, which specializes in the luxury yacht industry, and also acquiring shares in Royal Van Lint. (Royal Van Lent) also specializes in the manufacture of luxury yachts, in addition to its purchase of the Italian textile company "Loro Piana".

In January 2021, the “LVMH” group completed a major acquisition of $ 15.8 billion of the famous American company “Tiffany & Co” specialized in the jewelry industry, and it was considered the largest acquisition ever in the world of the jewelry industry. luxury.

In parallel, Arnault is developing his own holding company, the Arnault Group, which owns shares in several business groups, including Carrefour, Thomas Pink, Le Journal des Finances and D. De Beers Diamond Jewelers and others.

The Arno Group owns many shares in many companies, including Carrefour (Reuters)


In 2005, Arnault's name appeared as the richest man in France for the first time, ahead of the Bettencourt family, which held this position for many years.

In July 2019, Forbes magazine estimated Arnault's wealth at $103 billion, making him the first richest man in France and Europe, and the second in the world.

And in November 2019, Challenges magazine estimated that Arnault is the richest man in the world, especially after the LVMH group acquired the American company Tiffany & Co., which specializes in the luxury jewelry industry, with assets valued at Rs. $109 billion.

In January 2020, Arnault was ranked by Forbes magazine as the richest man in the world, with an estimated fortune of $ 117 billion, but he did not live long at the top of the list of the richest people in the world after he fell in the same year to third place behind the Americans, Elon. Musk and Jeff Bezos, due to the economic consequences resulting from the Corona epidemic crisis on the activity of the "LVMH" group.

And in 2021, Arno continued to be the third richest man in the world, after the ranking published by Forbes magazine, with assets estimated at $ 150 billion.

In December 2022, this French billionaire became at the top of the list of the richest people, with an estimated fortune of $ 171 billion, according to the Bloomberg economic agency index, again ahead of the American Musk, who had been topping the list for many years.

Awards and honors

  • French Order of the Legion of Honor, Grand Officer Class.

  • Commander of the French Order of Letters and Arts.

  • Grand Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

  • Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.