The final shape of LVMH’s likely Olympics sponsorship rests on Antoine Arnault, one of LVMH Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault’s five children and heirs, in a high-profile deal that could test the 46-year old’s marketing prowess. All of the family members, who range in age from 48 to 24, hold important positions at LVMH, the luxury group that oversees Louis Vuitton, Sephora and Christian Dior as well as champagne producer Moet & Chandon and watch maker TAG Heuer. Each is closely watched for any sign of pulling ahead of others to one day succeed the 74-year old CEO, who has not indicated he plans to step down any time soon.
As the world’s richest man, with a net worth estimated at $184.7 billion, Arnault oversees an empire that includes fashion brands like Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, beauty brands such as Sephora, perfumers like Givenchy, and drinks giants including Moet & Chandon and Hennessy Cognac. The firm also owns a number of high-end jewelers, and its holding company, Agache, backs venture capital firms with investments in businesses including Netflix and TikTok parent company ByteDance.
LVMH’s annual sales total more than $48 billion and its market value is Europe’s highest, with the conglomerate gaining ground as investors have embraced its stock during a lengthy rally. But the firm’s shares have been volatile since the start of 2022, with investors questioning the succession plan.
In a move that may have signalled his intentions to stay on, Arnault recently had LVMH rules changed so the top executive can continue to work until he is 80. Slim and tall (6ft 2in), the 74-year-old is a keen tennis player (for his 65th birthday his children organized a match between him and Roger Federer) and he shows no sign of slowing down.
The scuttlebutt is that the most likely candidate to become heir apparent is Delphine, who was recently promoted to chief executive of Christian Dior, the company’s second-largest brand. The eldest of the family’s children, she and her 45-year-old brother Antoine are both on the board at LVMH.
All five of the family members have strong personalities, but each has a different management style, and many of their philosophies differ on key issues such as how to manage creativity for the sake of profit and growth. A friend of the billionaire, businessman Sidney Toledano, said he was confident that the siblings would work through any disagreements because they have been taught to put the interests of the company first. “For now, they get on great,” he said. “They are all very intelligent and they are all very loyal to the company.” The upcoming Olympic sponsorship agreement is a major test of that promise. LVMH’s decision to partner with the International Olympic Committee could send a powerful message that the luxury group is the leader in a new wave of consumer demand for experiences over products. That could make it even harder for rivals to turn the tables on LVMH and steal its crown.