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Succession-style battle for Louis Vuitton fortune: Two of French fashion tycoon Bernard Arnault’s sons ‘join LVMH board’ as they pit their five children against each other for control of £300bn empire

The two sons of the world’s richest man are set to engage in a succession-style scramble to succeed him as head of the £300bn empire.

Fashion mogul Bernard Arnault, head of French multinational conglomerate LVHM, is expected to nominate Alexandre, 31, and Frédéric, 29, to the company’s board, further consolidating the influence the next generation of the family has over it.

The move is being watched closely for signs of who Bernard, 74, will eventually choose as his successor, a race that already includes two of his older heirs from his first marriage: Delphine, 48, and Antoine, 46.

The addition of the brothers, sons of Bernard’s second wife Hélène Mercier, would further open up the succession race at LVHM, which houses luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Tiffany & Co under its huge roof.

While Delphine was long believed to be Bernard’s favourite, Alexandre and Frédéric both showed great, early ambitions.

Arnault’s eldest son Antoine, who is married to Russian model Natalia Vodianova, has long been tipped to be a major player. However, he is said to be less driven than his half-brothers, even though he currently holds a family stake in LVHM.

There is also a fifth sibling, 25-year-old Jean, who, if his older brothers were elected to the board, would become the only sibling without a seat.

Adding to the intrigue — as in the fictional story of the wealthy Roy family jockeying for power in their father’s media dynasty on HBO’s «Succession» — is that all five children from Arnault’s two marriages are employed in the family. the business is vying for approval – and nothing has been decided yet.

The two sons of the world’s richest man are set to engage in a succession-style scramble to succeed him as head of one of the world’s biggest companies. Pictured: Alexandre Arnault (left) poses for a photo with Hollywood superstar Florence Pugh and his wife Geraldine Guyot (right)

Fashion mogul Bernard Arnault, head of French multinational conglomerate LVHM, is expected to nominate Alexandre, 31, and Frédéric (seen left with half-brother Antoine), 29, to the company’s board, further consolidating the family’s hold on the next generation. is over it

In recent years, rumors have swirled in Paris over whether it would be Delphine (pictured centre, with half-brothers Frederik and Jean) who would take over the reins

News that Alexandre and Frédéric would be drafted in was first reported by French outlet La Lettre, citing people familiar with the decision, and fueled fresh speculation about who will take over from Bernard when he steps down.

The news also came ahead of the release of LVHM’s annual results on Thursday, which could be the platform for a formal announcement.

In April 2023, LVHM – the second largest company in Europe – became the first on the continent to surpass the value of $500 billion amid a three-year boom in the luxury goods market during and after the coronavirus pandemic.

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Any nominations to the board will have to be approved by shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in April. However, this should not be too much of an obstacle.

The Arnault family owns more than 48 percent of LVHM’s shares and holds about 64 percent of the voting rights, according to the Financial Times.

All five children are already working in different parts of the growing business empire, each of them being closely watched by their father as they operate.

Alexandre is publicly known to enjoy the company of glamorous A-List celebrities, with Beyonce and Jay-Z even attending his 2021 wedding.

However, he started his career at LVHM young by helping to manage the takeover of luggage chain Rimowa, which the company bought in 2017.

Arnault’s eldest son Antoine, who is married to Russian model Natalia Vodianova (pictured together on Monday), has long been tipped to be a major player. However, he is said to be less busy than his half-brothers, although he currently holds the family stake in LVHM

What makes this Succession-esque story so interesting — as well as the fictional story of the wealthy Roy family trying to gain power from their father’s media dynasty — is that all five children from Arnault’s two marriages are employed in the family business.

The 31-year-old now leads product and communications at Tiffany & Co.

Third in line to the LVHM throne, Alexandre is said to be more entrepreneurial than his older half-brother Antoine – who wants to forge his own path – and is said to be the most charismatic and reliable.

Meanwhile, Frédéric, said to be a gifted tennis player and highly academic, is said to be most similar to his father in personality.

In 2017, he joined the family business and became Head of Strategy and Digital Director at watch brand Tag Heuer, before taking over as CEO in 2020.

Earlier this month, he was promoted to head LVHM’s watch division, which oversees Tag Heuer as well as its Hublot and Zenith luxury watch brands.

Their early ambitions and promising results led some observers to predict a succession battle between the two brothers.

Still, the family insisted they were not considering succession.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Frédéric said that “succession is not a topic we are thinking about today. It will come in due time. And he (Bernard) is a master of timing.”

But there are indications that the question of who will replace him is often on Bernard’s mind, with the patriarch himself having previously spoken publicly about it.

«One or more of my children who take over from me will be based on their ability, their talent and their desire, because you have to understand that it’s a lifetime commitment,» he said in the past.

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According to one report, when Arnault was asked another time which of his children he saw as his possible successor, he told a friend over lunch near the Champs-Elysées: ‘So I have five,’ before his voice trailed off.

While there have long been opinions that Delphine (pictured left with Rihanna) is a favorite of her father Bernard (right), Alexandre and Frédéric have both shown big ambitions.

Bernard’s fifth child, 25-year-old Jean (pictured left with model Caroline Daur), who, if his older brothers were elected to the board, would become the only sibling not to have a seat.

According to the Wall Street Journal, he gathers his kids once a month for a 90-minute lunch, during which he quizzes them on various pre-prepared topics.

In scenes that could have been ripped from the HBO drama series The Succession, Bernard goes around the table asking his children questions one by one.

Their answers in the grueling meeting – where Arnault effectively tests them – will help decide their futures and help guide his decision-making.

Arnault begins each lunch by reading off topics for discussion from his iPad before going around the table and asking each of his children for advice, people close to the billionaire told the US publication.

They will also be asked about their views on the company’s executives and what they would do with the company – and whether any of their prestige brands need a shake-up in leadership or focus.

Speaking to The Telegraph, HSBC’s Erwan Rambourg says the heirs’ «experience and management quality» means investors will be comfortable with whichever of Bernard’s heirs eventually takes the reins.

«While Bernard Arnault has not clarified what will come next, at least you know there are many possibilities,» he added.

In recent years, there have been rumors in Paris about whether Delphine will be the one to take the reins after she was promoted last year.

The billionaire’s only daughter appeared to have moved ahead in the race after her father unveiled her as the boss of Dior, LVMH’s second-biggest brand.

Just days later, she was front row at the Dior show in Paris alongside David Beckham, his youngest son Cruz, British actor Eddie Redmayne and his publicist Hannah, Twilight star Robert Pattinson and model Karlie Kloss.

However, it was also suggested at the time that investors «didn’t feel good» about Delphine, while others described her promotion to head Dior as «a little gift from dad».

Bernard Arnault (second-right) is seen with his sons Frederic (second from left), Jean (left) during the men’s singles final of the 2016 French Tennis Open at Roland Garros on June 5, 2016 in Paris.

There are signs that the question of who will replace him is often on Bernard’s mind, with the patriarch himself having previously spoken publicly about it.

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All five children are still in the running, but the decision was pushed back to January 2023 when Bernard (pictured with his wife) raised the LVMH chief executive’s retirement age to 80, giving himself at least an extra six years.

Just weeks before Delphine’s promotion, Antoine also became CEO of the listed company that holds the family’s stake in LVMH.

Now that Alexandre and Frédéric have joined the fray, the field is even more open.

Luca Solca, an analyst at Bernstein, told The Telegraph that the decision would ultimately «depend on business performance, which is the Darwinian environment».

All five children are still in the running, but the decision was pushed back to January 2023 when Bernard raised the retirement age of LVMH’s chief executive to 80, giving himself at least an extra six years.

«In terms of succession, you may also have noticed that the retirement age – which is very much in vogue – has been extended,» Arnault said at the time.

Some observers believe that the succession battle is less bitter or intense than that seen at other companies or depicted in HBO’s succession.

One of Arnault’s friends, businessman Sidney Toledano, said in 2023 that he was confident that all of the billionaire’s children could overcome any disagreements because they were taught to put the company’s interests first.

«They’re doing great so far,» Toledano said.

Family members also said the children avoid talking about who is the best at certain jobs or sports to avoid any appearance of conflict.

Toledano said Arnault is ‘above all a pragmatic person’. “You have to choose who’s the best at the time given the challenges. That’s what he does with his managers, his advisers, and I think that’s what he’s going to do with his kids.»

But the hardworking ethic of the Arnault family was drilled into the children from an early age.

Antoine, aged 14, illustrated this by writing a letter to his younger brother that read: “Dear Alexandre, I hope your birth went well and that you are well. I advise you to start working now, because otherwise…”

Bernard Arnault and wife Helene Mercier-Arnault, center, with, left to right, Alexandre, Frédéric, Jean, Delphine and Antoine Arnault

Antoine posted this unfinished note on his Instagram account last year.

HSBC’s Rambourg suggests in The Telegraph that a corporate structure could be designed to give each of the five children control of the business and prevent them from being able to sell their shares without the others’ consent.

Bernard is still in control for now and has until his 80s to decide.

Until then, Rambourg told a British newspaper: «The best person to replace Bernard in the next four years will probably be more Bernard.»

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