LVMH billionaire Bernard Arnault appoints daughter to run Dior

Sibling succession battle looms after eldest daughter of world’s richest person named boss of €382bn empire’s second-biggest brand

Bernard Arnault, the world’s richest person, has appointed his eldest daughter, Delphine, to run Christian Dior, the second-biggest brand in his €382bn (£337bn) luxury goods empire LVMH.

The reorganisation comes after an extraordinary year for Arnault, in which the 73-year-old’s personal fortune overtook that of the US entrepreneur Elon Musk, while a surge in the LVMH share price nudged the combined value of companies listed in Paris above London.

Arnault is cementing family control over a business he co-founded 35 years ago, in a move seen by many in the fashion industry as setting up a succession battle between Delphine, 47, and her brother Antoine, 45, who was promoted last month to run the holding company that controls LVMH and the $178bn (£147bn) Arnault fortune.

However, the contest could extend to all five of Arnault’s children. Delphine and Antoine, from his first marriage to Anne Dewavrin, now have top roles at LVMH. But all three of his children with his second wife, Hélène Mercier, also have important jobs within the world’s largest luxury goods company, that also includes brands such as Stella McCartney, TAG Heuer, Bulgari and Tiffany.

Alexandre Arnault, 30, is an executive at Tiffany, Frederic Arnault, 28, is chief executive of TAG Heuer, while the youngest child, Jean Arnault, 24, heads marketing and product development for Louis Vuitton’s watches division.

Some analysts have compared the competition between the Arnault children to that of Rupert Murdoch’s offspring or that of the Roys in the hit TV show Succession.

Luca Solca, an analyst at investment firm Bernstein, has said Arnault is creating a “Darwinian contest” to succeed him as chief executive of LVMH, which he co-founded in 1987. The secret of his success, says Solca, was the invention of a paradox: “selling exclusivity by the million”.

The heirs may, however, have some time to wait until taking over the running of the family firm, as it changed the company’s bylaws last year to allow a chief executive to continue running the firm until the age of 80, up from the previous 75.

Arnault announced on Wednesday that Delphine, now the executive vice-president of Louis Vuitton, will become Dior’s chief executive and chair from 1 February.

“Under Delphine’s leadership, the desirability of Louis Vuitton products advanced significantly, enabling the brand to regularly set new sales records,” he said. “Her keen insights and incomparable experience will be decisive assets in driving the ongoing development of Christian Dior.”

Delphine Arnault joined the family business in 2000 after two years at the management consultancy firm McKinsey and studying at the London School of Economics. She joined the LVMH board in 2003 – becoming the first woman and youngest person to serve on it.

The appointment marks a return to the brand Arnault first worked for in 2001, where she started working on shoes before rising to become a deputy general manager and liaising directly with Dior’s then creative director, John Galliano.

She was credited with minimising the fallout from Galliano’s racist and antisemitic rants at people in a Paris bar in 2011 that led to him being sacked and convicted for racism and antisemitism.

Delphine Arnault has said she was not heavily exposed to the family’s brands or extreme wealth as a child, but remembers getting a brown Louis Vuitton Noé bag (now retailing at £1,160) on her 18th birthday and attending her first lavish party when she was 21.

“I remember very well the 100-year ceremony, in 1996. There was a big party and at the top of the room was Naomi Campbell arriving on stage on a giraffe,” she told the Financial Times in 2014.

She is married to Xavier Niel, a French telecoms billionaire and co-owner of daily newspaper Le Monde, whose extensive collection of assets include rights to the song My Way popularised by Frank Sinatra.

Her younger brother Antoine, who graduated from HEC Montreal and holds an MBA from the business school Insead, is said to have been the brains behind a recent Louis Vuitton advertising campaign that featured Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi facing off in a chess game photographed by Annie Leibovitz.


Rupert Neate Wealth correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Luxury goods giant LVMH makes $14.5bn Tiffany & Co approach
French conglomerate has held preliminary takeover discussions with US jeweller

Rupert Neate Wealth correspondent and Julia Kollewe

28, Oct, 2019 @8:18 AM

Article image
Luxury goods giant LVMH grabs full control of Christian Dior
French group to bring fashion house’s brands from perfume to couture under one roof in complex deal worth €12bn

Julia Kollewe

25, Apr, 2017 @10:15 AM

Article image
Luxury player: why Bernard Arnault is making a blockbuster bid for Tiffany’s
France’s richest man has turned LVMH into a leviathan: this move will be the crowning glory of a calculating career

Kim Willsher and Zoe Wood

02, Nov, 2019 @4:00 PM

Article image
Hermès and LVMH 'handbag war' escalates
Luxury brands come before French stock-market regulator in dispute over Bernard Arnault's stake in Hermès

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris

31, May, 2013 @4:52 PM

Article image
Elon Musk loses title of world’s richest person to Bernard Arnault
Loss of top spot to LVMH chief executive comes after Tesla shares more than halve in value

Joanna Partridge

14, Dec, 2022 @9:08 AM

Article image
German sandal maker Birkenstock taken over by LVMH-backed group
Family investment firm of French billionaire Bernard Arnault, and L Catterton agree €4bn deal

Sarah Butler

26, Feb, 2021 @1:03 PM

Article image
Battle for succession in house of Dior: siblings jostle to seize family crown
The world’s richest man, Bernard Arnault, is choosing which of his children will lead his $418bn conglomorate. Cue gold-plated intrigue and drama …

Edward Helmore

14, Jan, 2023 @12:00 PM

Article image
LVMH may not have won the battle, but it has had a good war
Hermès family have succeeded in blocking Bernard Arnault – but LVMH has profited to the tune of €3bn

Nils Pratley

04, Sep, 2014 @12:00 AM

Article image
LVMH's Bernard Arnault persists in his pursuit of Hermès
LVMH has built a 20.2% stake since October – but Hermès is unimpressed and has rebuffed Arnault's overtures

Tom Bawden

08, Mar, 2011 @9:03 PM

Article image
France's richest man Bernard Arnault sues Libération newspaper over 'insult'
Leftwing newspaper carries headline: 'Get lost, rich jerk' as Arnauld seeks Belgian nationality before introduction of 75% tax

Kim Willsher in Paris

10, Sep, 2012 @6:54 PM