- Bénédicte Martin
(b Roubaix, March 5, 1949).
French businessman, patron, and collector. Born into an industrial family from northern France, Bernard Arnault studied at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. After completing his studies, Arnault took over the family’s construction business, Ferret-Savinel, which he converted into a real estate company by the name of Ferinel in the 1980s. He then took over the Boussac Group, which was facing financial difficulties but controlled the department store Le Bon Marché and the fashion label Dior, among other assets. The ‘Arnault System’, which evolved from these moves, relied on a series of acquisitions that culminated on 13 January 1989 in his being appointed chairman of France’s foremost luxury goods conglomerate, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH). With a net worth of an estimated 37.2 billion euros in 2015, Bernard Arnault became the second wealthiest individual in France. The entrepreneurial structure of the French luxury industry is oligopolistic, with three international conglomerates dividing the market among themselves: LVMH, PPR (Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, controlling Gucci), and Richemont. This structure was created through the absorption of a number of independent small-scale businesses (so-called PMEs) associated with specific products and well-known brands. Since the late 20th century, the luxury houses have maintained privileged relationships with the art market. Window displays of luxury brands are frequently designed by artists, while the auction houses play more and more with the codes of the luxury industry, making the demarcations between these two worlds increasingly tenuous; art is central to the marketing strategy of the LVMH group....