Bernard Arnault, the chairman and CEO of LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), is a name synonymous with luxury and success. With a net worth consistently placing him among the wealthiest individuals in the world, Arnault has built an empire in the luxury goods industry. From his iconic brands like Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior to his influence in art and culture, Arnault’s impact is far-reaching. However, beyond his business achievements lie intriguing aspects of his life and career that are lesser-known but equally captivating. In this article, we delve into ten things you may not know about Bernard Arnault, shedding light on the man behind the luxury conglomerate and unveiling the layers of his multifaceted personality.

1. A Pianist and an Engineer

Bernard Arnault, the chairman and CEO of LVMH, has a diverse background that includes both music and engineering. As a young man, he was an accomplished pianist and went on to study at the prestigious École Polytechnique in Paris, where he received an engineering degree.

His diverse background has been instrumental in his approach to leading LVMH. His appreciation for the arts has driven the group’s numerous collaborations with artists, while his engineering background has informed his strategic and analytical approach to business.

2. He Made His Fortune in Real Estate First

Before becoming the titan of luxury goods, Arnault amassed his initial wealth in the real estate sector. In 1971, he took over his family’s civil engineering company, Ferret-Savinel, and pivoted it towards real estate, specializing in holiday accommodations.

In the mid-1980s, Arnault sold the company’s construction division and used the proceeds to buy luxury goods firm Financière Agache, which controlled fashion brand Christian Dior. This marked the beginning of Arnault’s foray into the world of luxury goods.

3. Arnault is Known as the “Wolf in Cashmere”

Arnault is often referred to as the “Wolf in Cashmere” due to his soft-spoken, gentlemanly demeanor and his aggressive business tactics. He earned this nickname after a series of bold acquisitions and shrewd business moves that expanded LVMH’s portfolio.

Despite his aggressive business approach, Arnault is known for his personal style of quiet elegance and understatement, much like the luxury brands he represents.

4. He Has a Long-standing Rivalry with François Pinault

The rivalry between Arnault and François Pinault, another titan of the luxury goods industry, has been well-documented. Both have been vying for dominance in the luxury sector for years, with their respective companies, LVMH and Kering, owning some of the world’s most prestigious luxury brands.

Their rivalry has extended beyond business into the world of art, with both owning significant art collections and sponsoring major art exhibitions. This competition has only served to fuel their drive to dominate the luxury goods sector.

5. Arnault is an Avid Art Collector

Arnault is a passionate art collector with a collection that includes works by Picasso, Yves Klein, Henry Moore, and Andy Warhol, among others. His love for art extends beyond his personal collection, with LVMH sponsoring numerous art exhibitions and events.

In 2014, he opened the Fondation Louis Vuitton, a museum in Paris designed by architect Frank Gehry, to showcase his art collection and promote artistic and cultural expression. This commitment to the arts underscores the importance of creativity and design in the LVMH group.

6. He Attempted to Become a Belgian Citizen

In 2013, Arnault sparked controversy when he sought to acquire Belgian citizenship. Many speculated that the move was a tax avoidance measure, a claim that Arnault vehemently denied. He stated that his application was motivated by personal and business reasons, not tax-related ones.

Eventually, Arnault withdrew his application, but the episode underscored the extent of his wealth and the lengths he would go to protect it.

7. Arnault Briefly Surpassed Jeff Bezos as the Richest Person in the World

In 2019, Arnault briefly surpassed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to become the richest person in the world. His net worth soared thanks to the rising stock price of LVMH. However, he soon returned to the number two spot.

Despite this, Arnault’s brief tenure as the world’s richest person underscored the massive success of LVMH and his personal fortune derived from the luxury goods sector.

8. He Revived Christian Dior

In the 1980s, the iconic fashion house Christian Dior was struggling. Arnault, seeing an opportunity, bought the brand and worked to revive it. He appointed young and talented designers, like John Galliano and later Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri, to inject new life into Dior.

Today, Dior is one of the crown jewels in the LVMH portfolio, renowned for its fashion, cosmetics, and perfumes. This turnaround is a testament to Arnault’s business acumen and understanding of luxury branding.

9. Arnault is a Significant Shareholder in Carrefour

Beyond the luxury sector, Arnault has interests in the retail sector as well. He is a significant shareholder in Carrefour, one of the largest supermarket chains in the world.

This investment underscores Arnault’s diverse business interests and his knack for identifying lucrative business opportunities in a variety of sectors.

10. His Family Plays a Big Role in His Business

Arnault’s five children play significant roles within LVMH. His daughter Delphine is the executive vice president of Louis Vuitton and a member of LVMH’s executive committee, his son Antoine is CEO of Berluti and chairman of Loro Piana, and his son Alexandre is CEO of Tiffany & Co.

His younger children, Frederic and Jean, are also involved in the family business. This involvement ensures that the Arnault family will continue to guide LVMH’s future, furthering Bernard Arnault’s legacy.