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The Wolf In Cashmere: Bernard Arnault’s Lifestyle

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Bernard Arnault's lifestyle

In ARDOXSO’s Lifestyle section, we are always on the watch for persons of interest. We are searching for entrepreneurs, innovators, venture capitalists, and other personalities with an intriguing story and something to learn from. Today we have decided to address Bernard Arnault’s lifestyle.

Bernard Arnault, the chief executive of LVMH, has been on our radar for months now. Recently he has soared in the Forbes’ Billionaire List to become the world’s second-richest person. We saw this as an opportunity to discuss the french businessman’s story. Bernard Arnault’s lifestyle is work-centered. Despite working in the fashion business, he ducks the brawling of tabloids.

Bernard Arnault’s lifestyle

Becoming Bernard Arnault

On March 5th of the year 1949, Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault was born to Jean Léon Arnault and Marie-Josèphe Savinel. Jean Léon was a graduate of École Centrale Paris and managed the Ferret-Savinel, a civil engineering company belonging to his wife’s family. They lived in Roubaix, a city north of France. It is widely known that Marie-Josèphe, Bernard Arnault’s mother, had a “fascination for Dior,” the French luxury goods company. What neither of them knew was that the little Bernard would one day become the controller and chair of Dior.

“Oh, I was brought up in the north of France, and I had a very enjoyable childhood with my family working as entrepreneurs.” – Bernard Arnault

Arnault studied his senior high school years at Lycée Faidherbe in Lille and attended the prestigious École Polytechnique to earn an engineering degree. After graduation, in the year 1971, he started working for the family company. This stage of Arnault’s career lasted 14 years, for the 6 of which he assumed the role of president. By shifting the focus of the company to the real estate sector, business flourished more than ever.

The company boomed under his management enough for Arnault to leave at this point and look for new horizons.

“In business, I think the most important thing is to position yourself for long-term and not be too impatient, which I am by nature, and I have to control myself.” – Bernard Arnault

Arnault’s first purchase was the Financière Agache, a luxury goods company. Afterward, he gained control of Boussac Saint-Frères, a textile company that owned Christian Dior and the department store Le Bon Marché, among others. Arnault realized that luxury fashion goods have the potential to be more profitable than any other business.

“Luxury goods are the only area in which it is possible to make luxury margins.” – Bernard Arnault

In 1988, Arnault chipped in $1.5 billion to form a holding company with Guinness, the international alcohol brands. By partnering with Guinness that held 24% of LVMH’s shares, Arnault became a shareholder of the luxury-goods company. Providing another $1.1 billion for purchasing more LVMH shares rendered him the company’s largest shareholder with a majority of voting rights.

“In the luxury business, you have to build on heritage.” – Bernard Arnault

Under his command, LVMH started acquiring big names of fashion one after another: CélineBerlutiKenzoGuerlainLoeweMarc JacobsSephora, and more. His relentless procurement of large fashion companies earned him the title of The Wolf In Cashmere.

“I remember people telling me it does not make sense to put together so many brands. And it was a success, it was a recognized success, and for the last ten years now, every competitor is trying to imitate. I think they are not successful, but they try.” – Bernard Arnault

 

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Present

Bernard Arnault’s assets are estimated to be worth $118 billion. He is at the helm in LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE, the Paris-based multinational corporation and conglomerate. LVMH commands hundreds of brands and subsidiaries and is the world’s largest luxury-goods company. The staggering list includes so many signature brands that it almost feels unreal. If you share an interest in the world of perfumes, fashion, and luxury watches, LVMH has some of the world’s greatest names in its pocket. Here are a number of the most famous companies and brands operating under LVMH:

What LVMH has achieved is a portrayal of ambition and determination in Bernard Arnault’s lifestyle. Throughout his career, Arnault has invested in other businesses as well. The diversified list includes names like NetflixCarrefourPrincess Yachts, and Château Cheval Blanc.

 “I am very competitive. I always want to win.” – Bernard Arnault

 

Sleep

33 Square reports on the French magnates sleep habits:

“…to relax his mind, he takes a sound sleep for 7 hours every night. Arnault also set his sleeping schedule at the same time for improving the mind’s productivity. Moreover, with his great sense of creativity, his bedroom is also designed to contribute to a peaceful sleep.”

 

Work

Bernard Arnault’s lifestyle revolves around his work. He leads a private life and lets the booming business speak for him.

“All that interests me is promoting my brands, never myself.” – Bernard Arnault

Arnault considers work a source of happiness. He takes pleasure from effective leadership and winning.

“Happiness for me is really leading the team and, if possible, leading them to the top.” – Bernard Arnault

The fashion mogul is not sitting around and counting money:

“I often say to my team we should behave as if we’re still a start-up. Don’t go to the offices too much. Stay on the ground with the customer or with the designers as they work. I visit stores every week. I always look for the store managers. I want to see them on the ground, not in their offices doing paperwork.” – Bernard Arnault

It can be argued that the coupled interaction of management and creativity is what inspires Arnault to command a conglomerate in fashion. His love for the process can be traced back to his early years in construction:

“When I was working in my first job engineering construction, what I liked the most was working with architects and making buildings that had this creative side coming from the architect and that we’re making them a big success.” – Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault’s lifestyle can be considered work-centered, but who says work cannot be fun!?

“What I have fun with is trying to transform creativity into business reality all over the world. To do this, you have to be connected to innovators and designers, but also make their ideas liveable and concrete.” – Bernard Arnault

Although creative design is essential in the fashion business, Arnault argues that having good designers is not enough:

“It is not enough to have a talented designer; the management must be inspired too. The creative process is very disorganized; the production process has to be very rational.” – Bernard Arnault

Arnault argues that leading business in fashion demands a deep understanding of the artistic mindset of the creatives involved.

“When you are on the management side, you still have to understand the artistic sensibility so that there is a dialogue with the creative side.” – Bernard Arnault

How can a manager who habitually deals with numbers and financial projections understand artistic creativity? The fashion billionaire believes the answer to be love:

“If you deeply appreciate and love what creative people do and how they think, which is usually in unpredictable and irrational ways, then you can start to understand them. And finally, you can see inside their minds and DNA.” – Bernard Arnault

Arnault is actively involved with designers and creatives.

“I meet the designers very often, we discuss the products, they show me their ideas, we discuss the ad campaigns and every new invention that we can find for the future.” – Bernard Arnault

As any manager worth his salt would know, to succeed, you need to design for people. Arnault tries to put this concept in the heart of the process and directs creators to focus on the people.

“My work is to help innovators and designers understand that the success of their creativity is in large part based on the success of their products. Creativity – yes, but executed in a way that people like and can use.” – Bernard Arnault

 

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Family & Friends

The fashion billionaire has been married twice. His second wife, Helene Mercier-Arnault, is a Canadian concert pianist. Arnault has five children, two from his first marriage and three from his second.

Arnault is friends with Albert Frere, the Belgian billionaire businessman:

“I’ve always been pleased with the investments I’ve made with my friend Albert Frere and I regret not having followed him more, because I would have been a lot richer.” – Bernard Arnault

 

Exercise

Although Bernard Arnault’s lifestyle is somewhat of a closed book, his love for tennis is not kept hidden. The CEO occasionally plays with Roger Federer, a Swiss professional tennis player, and hopes to get good enough to score a point or two someday, Financial Times reports.

 

“Money is just a consequence. I always say to my team, don’t worry too much about profitability. If you do your job well, the profitability will come.” – Bernard Arnault

 

Feature Image Source: Hautehorlogerie

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ARDOXSO Weekly Blog currently has 5 members at its editorial board and publishes about 250 articles annually on ARDOXSO blog.

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