Spotlight on: Bernard Arnault, Chairman, LVMH

 

Why is the "wolf in cashmere" back in the news?

Because the luxury goods group he runs as chairman, LVMH, has revealed amazing full-year results.

 

Are there still enough rich people buyingmonogrammed handbags to keep him happy?

Yes. LVMH revealed a forecast-beating 22 per cent rise in 2011 operating profit yesterday, helped by rapid growth in Asia. And Mr Arnault is even positive for 2012 too.

 

So what exactly is LVMH?

LVMH is a huge collection of luxury goods companies spanning everything from De Beers and Tag Heuer to Christian Dior and Dom Perignon. Not to mention Louis Vuitton, Moët and Hennessy.

 

And is it all Monsieur Arnault's own work?

Bernard, France's richest man, was born to a wealthy family. His father, Jean Arnault, built up a real-estate business. Bernard expanded this, then ran Financière Agache, a luxury goods group – the beginning of his luxury goods empire.

 

But why is he a "wolf in cashmere"?

His business style could be described as ruthless. He stealthily builds up stakes in companies and later pounces, sometimes after years of stalking. Even his own accession to the throne of LVMH followed a bitter battle.

 

So what is his latest infatuation?

Having bought the family-owned jeweller Bulgari last year, Hermès is next on his list. Describing himself as just a "peaceful shareholder", he has built a 20.2 per cent stake, much to the upset of its owning family.

 

How long has he got?

Father Jean died aged 90 in 2010, and at 62 Bernard Arnault already has a succession plan: his son Antoine and daughter Delphine are on the LVMH board.

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