(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Bernard Arnault elevated his eldest son, Antoine, to a broader role within the world’s largest luxury conglomerate in a move that will spark fresh speculation about succession at LVMH.
Antoine Arnault, 45, is replacing Sidney Toledano, 71, as chief executive officer and vice chairman of Christian Dior SE, the holding company through which the family controls LVMH.
The move gives Antoine an increasingly prominent role within Europe’s most valuable company, with a market capitalization of 364 billion euros ($384 billion) and a sprawling portfolio of high-end brands ranging from Louis Vuitton to Dom Perignon Champagne.
It’ll also revive one of the favorite parlor games in Paris — talk of which of Bernard Arnault’s five children will succeed the 73-year-old LVMH chief once he hands over the reins of the empire he began building more than three decades ago.
“The appointment of Antoine Arnault exemplifies a planned transition in a spirit of fair process around the succession of Bernard Arnault,” said Philippe Pelé-Clamour, an expert on the governance of family firms at business school HEC Paris.
There’s no indication that he’s going anywhere anytime soon. LVMH recently lifted the age limit of its chief executive officer, allowing the family patriarch to stay at the helm until he’s 80.
Still, the appointment shows how Arnault has been moving to cement family control once he’s no longer in charge. All five of the younger generation, including Antoine, work at LVMH or one of its brands.
Daughter Delphine, Bernard Arnault’s eldest child from his first marriage to Anne Dewavrin, is a senior executive who oversees products at Louis Vuitton, the group’s biggest brand.
The younger sons from Bernard Arnault’s second marriage to Helene Mercier, a Canadian concert pianist, are also involved. Alexandre has been in charge of products and communications at Tiffany & Co. for almost two years. Frederic runs Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer while Jean is working to develop the watch category at Louis Vuitton.
The company has been steaming ahead, posting big sales gains as wealthy consumers remain unaffected by the global cost-of-living crisis. Bernard Arnault is currently challenging Elon Musk for the title of word’s richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Antoine is keeping his other responsibilities within the group, notably running image and communications for LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE and managing shoemaker Berluti. He’s also non-executive chairman of Loro Piana. Pietro Beccari is keeping his CEO role of Christian Dior Couture.
Toledano is keeping his role as CEO of LVMH’s fashion business, overseeing brands such as Celine and Loewe.
Antoine was born in Roubaix in 1977. He graduated from HEC Montreal and holds an MBA from business school INSEAD. He was recently behind an ad campaign for Louis Vuitton that featured Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi facing off in a chess game photographed by Annie Leibovitz.
The Arnault family own about 48% of the shares of LVMH, with 64% of the voting rights, according to its annual report. Most of that shareholding is via Christian Dior SE.
(Corrects spelling of Sidney Toledano in second paragraph in article originally published Dec. 9)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.