The richest man in the world holds monthly lunches where he drills his five children on matters concerning business—though he has yet to choose an heir to his multibillion-dollar corporation.
Bernard Arnault is widely referred to as the “wolf in cashmere” by those in the business industry, and for good reason. On top of nurturing talented fashion designers, the 72-year-old has worked tirelessly to hunt down and acquire rival firms in an effort to grow his luxury empire, LVMH.
The powerful conglomerate has an extensive and impressive line-up of brands under its name. These include the likes of Hennesy, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Bulgari, Tiffany & Co., Givenchy, Guerlain, and Fendi—among many others. As such, it’s no surprise that Arnault was named the richest man in the world, with a $213 billion fortune that far exceeds that of Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
It’s to be expected that managing such a large business comes with many responsibilities, which is why the French tycoon has made it a point to pass down tips of the trade to his five children.
Though Arnault has yet to announce the chosen heir to his hefty fortune, those closest to him shared that the concern has been on his mind for years. So much so that he started training his children to manage business affairs since they were very young.
Passing the Torch
An article from the The Wall Street Journal stated that Arnault would give his children intensive math drills between his business meetings while they were growing up.
He also paired them up with experienced mentors who would observe and guide them. These mentors were usually top executives in his company, such as Sidney Toledano and Michael Burke, who headed Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton respectively.
Toledano explained that Arnault would ask them “about some of their [his children’s] character traits, or if there’s a need for a little correction.”
Even if all his children are now full-fledged adults who are already managing LVMH’s brands, the learning process has never ceased. It was recently revealed that the multibillionaire would hold 90-minute lunch meetings inside the private dining room of LVMH’s Paris headquarters every month.
During these meetings, Arnault would read aloud topics of discussion from his iPad, then ask each of his children for counsel, seeking their opinions on company management and focus.
Running the Business
Arnault’s children from his first marriage with Anne Dewavrin include Delphine (48, the eldest of the five) and Antoine (45). Meanwhile, the businessman has three sons from his second marriage with pianist Helene Mercier: Alexandre (30), Frédéric (28), and Jean (24, the youngest of the bunch).
Many speculate that the family’s eldest, Delphine, may be the one who’ll be granted the keys to the billion-dollar empire. This is mostly due to the fact that Arnault made her the chief executive of Christian Dior—the second largest brand in the conglomerate.
Her brother Antoine is a close second in the list of possible heirs, as he was appointed CEO of the company that holds the family’s stake in LVMH, according to The Wall Street Journal.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t any more eligible candidates. All of Arnault’s children contribute greatly to the megacorporation, with Alexandre as the head of communication at Tiffany & Co., Frédéric as the chief executive of Tag Heuer, and Jean as the head of marketing and development for Louis Vuitton’s watches division.
One might expect that the Arnault clan’s succession would play out exactly like, well, the HBO series Succession. That is to say, the children of tycoons are often pegged as the types to quarrel and compete for a large inheritance. However, Arnault made sure that his family wouldn’t follow this trope.
Toledano tells the Wall Street Journal that the billionaire’s children were always reminded to put the company’s interests first. Arnault also strongly discouraged any conversations on who was “better” than whom, even regarding matters as small as hobbies or interests.
What’s more, the five children foster a careful and respectful relationship amongst themselves. They don’t regard each other as half-siblings, and everyone avoids showing signs of conflict to the public.
“For now, they all get on great,” shared Toledano.
Banner Photo via Instagram @lvmh.