On September 21st, LVMH announced that Jean-Claude Biver was relinquishing his operational duties at the head of its Watch division, a position he had held since 2014. This iconic figure, who assumes the role of non-executive chairman of the division, will be replaced on November 1st by Stéphane Bianchi, who has spent most of his career with the Yves Rocher cosmetics company. In the wake of Mr Biver’s resignation, further changes were announced in the top ranks of TAG Heuer. Starting with the discreet nomination of Frédéric Arnault, 23, as strategy and digital director. A graduate of Ecole Polytechnique in Paris and son of Bernard Arnault, owner of LVMH, Frédéric Arnault joined the business a year ago as head of connected technologies. His appointment reconfirms Bernard Arnault’s strategy to keep the business in family hands: three of his other children already hold executive positions in one or other of the group’s brands. With more to come.
€42.6 billion in sales doesn't prevent Bernard Arnault from running luxury titan LVMH like a family firm.
Formed in 1987 when Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy merged, LVMH now heads a portfolio of more than 70 brands – including high-end watchmakers Hublot, Zenith, TAG Heuer and Bulgari – and in 2017 made €42.6 billion in sales. Which doesn’t prevent Bernard Arnault, 69, from running the luxury titan like a family firm. His eldest daughter, Delphine, 43, joined the group in 2000. Three years later, she took a seat on the board of directors, making her the first woman and, at 28 years old, the youngest person to do so. She sat on the boards of several of the group’s brands, including Céline, Loewe and Pucci, then in 2008 became deputy managing director of Christian Dior Couture. She left this role in 2013 when she moved to Louis Vuitton, also as deputy managing director. Delphine Arnault is now one of France’s biggest fortunes, worth an estimated €4 billion.
Like his sister, who is two years older, Antoine Arnault took a seat on the LVMH board of directors at the age of 28, in 2005. Two years later, he was made head of communication at Louis Vuitton. He remained there until 2011, when he became managing director of luxury shoemaker Berluti. Since 2013 he has also been chairman of cashmere house Loro Piana, and more recently took on the additional responsibility of head of communication and image for LVMH. He masterminded the creation of Les Journées Particulières, when the public are invited to discover the group’s companies and the expertise of its craftsmen and women. For the next edition, this October 12th, 13th and 14th, the group will open 77 sites in 14 countries across four continents.
No heir apparent
Alexandre Arnault, 26, the eldest son from Bernard Arnault’s second marriage, moved from high-flying studies at Télécom ParisTech and Ecole Polytechnique to propel the group into digital terrain. At the tender age of 24, he led negotiations for the takeover by LVMH of Rimowa, the German manufacturer of premium luggage in lightweight, hardwearing aluminium and polycarbonate. After a year of back and forth, the luxury group put €640 million on the table for an 80% stake. Alexandre Arnault was immediately appointed co-chief executive alongside Dieter Morszeck, 64, whose grandfather founded the company. This was the luxury giant’s first acquisition in Germany. Based in Cologne, Rimowa employs 3,000 people, sells its products in 65 countries, and turns over €400 million.
Frédéric Arnault's appointment at TAG Heuer makes him the fourth scion of Europe's richest man to take an executive position in the group.
Frédéric Arnault is thus the fourth scion of Europe’s richest man (at the head of €60 billion) to take an executive position in the group. An alumna of Ecole Polytechnique, like his father, he is tipped to take over at the head of LVMH, although the field is still open as Jean, the youngest at 19, has yet to take his first steps within the group. Not to mention that Bernard Arnault shows no signs of wanting to hand over the reins. His choice to methodically place his heirs in key positions makes sharp contrast with certain other billionaires, who keep their offspring out of the picture. Bill Gates, for example, the world’s second-richest person (US$ 90 billion according to Forbes), plans to leave “just” seven million to each of his three children. Who, among the Arnault siblings, will take up the mantle remains to be seen.