In 1987, Arnault founded LVMH along with Alain Chevalier and Henri Racamier, the then-CEO and then-president of Moët Hennessy and Louis Vuitton, respectively. By 1989, Arnault controlled a net 43.5 % of LVMH’s shares and consequently, 35 % of its voting rights and by the end of the year, he ousted Racamier and was unanimously voted the chairman of the company.
Following his ascent to the position of chairman, Arnault put into action his aggressive business expansion plans, acquiring Céline, Christian Lacroix, Berluti, Kenzo, La Tribune, Guerlain, Loewe, Marc Jacobs, and Sephora between 1988 and 1997. This ballooned LVMH’s profits from $508 million in 1990 to $665.8 million by 1999, making Arnault the richest man in fashion that same year.
Between 1998 and 1991, Arnault also invested in several web-based companies including Boo.com, Libertysurf, Zebank, and Netflix. In 1999, he had also bought out a 34.4 % stake in Gucci which the latter termed as a ‘creeping takeover’. However, after a legal ruling in 2001, LVMH sold off their shares with a $700 million profit.
By 2007, Arnault began expanding into other industries, buying out a 10.69% stake in Carrefour, France’s largest supermarket retailer. Next in line was Princess Yachts and Royal van Lent in 2008. In 2011, LVMH acquired the Italian jeweller Bulgari, in a deal worth $5.2 billion. He also established his private equity firm LCapitalAsia in the same year. In 2014, he bought a 45% minority stake in Marco De Vincenzo and by 2017, he integrated the entire Christian Dior product line into the LVMH fold. By the end of the year, LVMH recorded revenues of over €42 billion. Consequently, in December 2019, Arnault became the richest person in the world for the first time, albeit only for a few hours.
In 2020, after becoming the world’s richest person again in January, Arnault saw his wealth shrink by nearly $30 billion after LVMH’s shares plummeted by 19 % due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in August 2021, his net worth surged back up to $198 billion after the markets opened back up and LVMH’s products exploded in popularity in the Asian markets.
In addition to Arnault’s business ambitions, he is also a connoisseur of art and owns several works of Picasso, Yves Klein, and Henry Moore. He established LVMH as one of the biggest patrons of art in France and was also instrumental in establishing the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, a cultural centre dedicated towards the creation and preservation of contemporary art.