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Bernard Arnault is a French
businessman. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of LVMH, a large luxury
goods conglomerate consisting of over fifty luxury brands, including Louis
Vuitton, Dior, and Fendi. According to Forbes Magazine, Arnault is the
world's 4th and Europe's richest person, with a 2011 net worth of US$41
Arnault was born in Roubaix. After graduating from the Maxence Van Der
Meersch High School, Arnault was admitted to the École Polytechnique
from which he graduated with an engineering degree in 1971. After
graduation, Arnault joined his father's company. In 1976, he convinced his
father to liquidate the construction division of the company for 40 million
French francs, and to change the focus of company to real estate. Using the
name Férinel, the new company developed a specialty holiday accommodation.
In 1979, he succeeded his father as president of the company.
When François Mitterrand was elected President of France in 1981, Arnault
emigrated to the United States and created Ferinel Inc. Through this
vehicle, Arnault undertook construction activity in the United States,
developing an apartment complex in limited partnership form in West Palm
Beach, Florida, which defaulted on its mortgage shortly after its
completion. The equity investors lost their entire investment and
bondholders who had financed the project lost most of their money as well.
He was not particularly successful in the United States. Three years later,
when the French Socialists switched to a more conservative economic course,
Arnault returned to France and became the CEO of Financière Agache, a luxury
goods company. The Arnault family put up just $15 million of their own
money, with Lazard supplying the rest of the reported $80 million purchase
price.Arnault sold nearly all the company's assets, keeping only the
prestigious Christian Dior brand, and Le Bon Marché department store.
In 1987, shortly after the creation of LVMH, Mr Arnault exploited a growing
conflict between Alain Chevalier, Moët Hennessy's CEO, and Henry Recamier,
president of Louis Vuitton. The new group held property rights to Dior
perfumes, which Arnault craved to incorporate into Dior Couture.
In 2007 he acquired 10.69% of France's largest supermarket retailer and the
world's second largest food distributor, Carrefour through his Blue Capital,
which is jointly owned by California property firm Colony Capital.
Among other companies, Arnault also owned the art auction house, Phillips de
Pury & Company from 1999 to 2003.
Arnault has been married twice, and is the father of five children. His
daughter Delphine Arnault is actively involved in the management of LVMH.
His second wife, Hélène Mercier, is a pianist from Quebec. Mr Arnault is a
noted art collector. Following the example of business man François Pinault,
he created a Louis Vuitton foundation for contemporary art. .
He was awarded the French Legion of Honor.
( Courtesy: Wikkipedia)