Sunday, August 19News That Matters

Bernard Arnault: How France's richest man stays in fashion

Now, three of Arnault’s five children are involved in the company. Antoine, 40, runs LVMH’s Italian leather goods brand Berluti and is also chair of cashmere company Loro Piana. He saw his father’s ascension as he was growing up.

“My sister and I lived the creation of the group. When we grew up, he was not in luxury, he was in real estate. To see this incredible ascension from yes, a very successful real estate entrepreneur but on a smaller scale, to this huge, incredible success,” he said. Aged 11- or 12-years-old, Antoine would see his father on TV and in the papers. “So quite early on, we understood that something was going on.”

Delphine, 43, is a director and executive vice-president at Louis Vuitton and runs the LVMH Prize for young fashion designers, while Alexandre, 25, is co-chief executive of the company’s German luggage brand Rimowa, launching a collaboration with street wear brand Supreme in April, with cases selling upwards of $1,000. Meanwhile, Frédéric, 23, is head of connected technology at Tag Heuer.

But while the business is all about the higher echelons of luxury, Arnault is not untouchable, states Antoine. “(People) imagine him in his big tower with his Excel sheets with numbers. It’s very very far from reality. His real interest is his family. Of course, he’s a workaholic. He works a lot and he loves it, but … he also has fun with it. It’s not as serious as some might think up there,” he told “The Brave Ones”. Antoine also talks about the “court” that surrounds his father, where people “usually tend to agree with him.”

But that’s not how a family business makes progress: “If I do agree with him, I will tell him. But if I don’t, I will never hesitate to tell him, too. And sometimes we do disagree and it can go high up in the heating system, but it’s good, it’s important that we tell him the truth,” Antoine said.

For Arnault, this close-knit structure means the company thinks long term. “When you are in a family you have two major advantages. One is you can think long term. I see too many companies in which you have changes all the time. And especially in the U.S., you have to be all the time looking at the next quarter’s numbers.”

“What I always say to my team is I am not that much interested by the number(s) (for) the next six months. What I am interested in is that the desire for the brand will be the same in 10 years as it is today.”

Antoine attests to this. “We absolutely take no decisions based on the share price, not for LVMH … what motivates the family is that Louis Vuitton, Loro Piana, Berluti, Dior is on top of their game.”

The second advantage is that new hires are treated like family, Arnault says. “You are not just a little person in a big thing, you are a member of the family and you will be taken care of as such.”

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