Power List



Asset Class


Bernard Arnault

Spear’s Review                                                                                                    

Bernard Arnault hit the headlines last year when it emerged that he had become the world’s richest man, worth $171 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index at the time. It is a fitting accolade for a man who more than any other has shaped notions of modern wealth and sophistication. 

LVMH, the luxury goods conglomerate he built over four decades and runs with his family, is the largest in the world, encompassing 75 brands. They include Louis Vuitton, Dior, Tiffany, Fendi, Givenchy, Loewe, Loro Piana, Acqua di Parma, TAG Heuer and Bulgari, plus Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon.

Arnault is responsible for transforming the luxury goods industry from one based on small, family-run artisanal maisons into one dominated by multi-billion-pound global dream factories. Before Tom Ford, before Karl Lagerfeld, he understood that a status symbol is as much about what it represents as what it actually is. He set out to create products that, as he once told Harvard Business Review, ‘fulfil a fantasy. You feel you must buy it or you won’t be in the moment. You’ll be left behind.’

To bolster his vision, he created the flagship store-as-brand-temple, and pioneered the idea of installing buzzy young designers to give established labels modern cultural currency. He hired Marc Jacobs and Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton and masterminded Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with artists such as Takashi Murakami and cult streetwear brands, notably Supreme.   

To say it has worked is something of an understatement. The Louis Vuitton brand alone reached $20 billion in revenue in 2022 – just four years after it became the luxury industry’s first to hit $10 billion in annual sales.

Arnault says he figured out his strategy in New York in the Eighties when he got into a cab and discovered that his driver had never heard of de Gaulle but he knew Dior. His aggressive methods, taking over almost any brand he set his eyes on – except, much to his frustration, Gucci and Hermès – have earned him the nickname ‘the wolf in cashmere clothing’.

He suffered a rare setback in 2012 when it emerged that he had applied for a Belgian passport during the socialist administration of President François Hollande. He denied he was trying to avoid French taxes.

Arnault, 74, shows no signs of slowing down. He recently had talks with 88-year-old Giorgio Armani about buying the Milan-based designer’s eponymous brand.



Rank: Top Flight

Top Flight 2023, Power List

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