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France’s answer to Elon Musk

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty

Bernard Arnault, CEO of the luxury conglomerate LVMH and competitor with Elon Musk for the title of world’s richest man, is “on a par with a head of state”, say Elsa Conesa and Solenn de Royer in Le Monde. His €412bn company is the globe’s 14th-largest, and worth more than all four major German carmakers put together. In his home country of France, he has private dinners with Emmanuel Macron several times a year, and LVMH brands like Louis Vuitton have quasi-exclusivity in dressing Macron’s wife Brigitte. The group’s links with Paris city hall “sometimes verge on incestuous”: local police have been instructed to stop ticketing the sedans “permanently parked in front of the Cheval Blanc hotel”, where Arnault entertains his VIP guests.

His network extends far beyond France. Tony Blair is a “friend and tennis partner”; in China, where LVMH generates almost 30% of its sales, his visits attract huge crowds. Arnault has personally known every US president since Ronald Reagan, and was able to get his champagnes exempted from the customs sanctions against French wines introduced by Donald Trump in 2019. There is a “long history” between Arnault and Vladimir Putin, too. In 2003, he hosted the Russian president “with great pomp” at one of his vineyards, where he presented him with a case of wine of different vintages “corresponding to key dates in his life”.

🤑😳 The late businessman Jean-Noël Tassez once escorted Arnault to his car after a dinner in Saint-Tropez, and remarked, “Bernard, you look a little sad.” “As long as I’m not the richest man in the world, I won’t really be happy,” replied Arnault. “His dumbfounded companion was unsure whether he was being serious.”