ALL ABOUT ARNAULT: Family, work — and winning — are Bernard Arnault’s priorities and passions, according to a program that’s set to air Wednesday night at 10 p.m. GMT, part of the CNBC series “The Brave Ones.”
The eight-part series has focused in the past on entrepreneurs including Richard Branson, Jack Ma and Bill McDermott, chief executive officer of SAP.
In the 30-minute segment, the LMVH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton ceo discusses his career, his love for his work and family, the success of his company, who his successor might be, and his desire to be a winner — always.
The segment also features interviews with Karl Lagerfeld, Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and Louis Vuitton ceo Michael Burke.
“When I go [to work] in the morning I always think: ‘I will have fun today with this or this.’ I am never bored. And I am very competitive. It’s like in tennis — I always want to win. And that’s fun,” Arnault said in the interview.
He spoke about the impact of his family on business, and said he is lucky to have “fantastic children” who are interested in the family firm.
“A family business, especially in the luxury area, is key for success,” he said. “When you are in a family you have two major advantages: one is you can think long-term. Like Louis Vuitton, for instance, I am not that much interested by the numbers of the next six months. What I am interested in is that the desire for the brand will be the same in 10 years as it is today. And the second advantage to being a family business is to hire people. Because when people come to LVMH, they do not come into a group with some anonymity, they come into a family. You are not just a little person in a big thing, you are a member of the family and you will be taken care of as such.”
His son Antoine Arnault, ceo of Berluti and chairman of Loro Piana, told the program that people imagine his father in a big tower with Excel sheets.
“It’s very far from reality,” said the younger Arnault. “His real interest is his family. Of course, he is a workaholic. He works a lot and he loves it. But as you might have seen, he also has fun with it. It’s not as serious as some might think up there.”
Bernard Arnault spoke about the success of LVMH and credited the quality of the product to the craftsmen and women behind it.
“We have a large campaign of hiring young people [who] sometimes are not thinking of becoming craftsmen or craftwomen,” he said. “But once we have given them the idea, and once we train them, we have a rate of success that is nearly 90 percent. And it’s very rewarding for us to see these young people as being so proud.”
He also said he tries to think of what LVMH can bring to a brand if it is looking to buy a brand. “What can the brand be? How can it be improved?” Arnault said. “Also, does it fit with the other brands? Is it a competitor? Most of the time it is a competitor, but does it fill a niche where we can see we are not very much present, and when that happens I must say we can move.”
Arnault also addressed who might succeed him at LVMH, and said it will be the best manager. “Not because he is a member of the family. But as I said, the group as a whole is a family, and so we will choose in the family who is the best. But I think I will be there for some years.”
Talking about his longtime boss and collaborator, Lagerfeld said Arnault has a very different personal side. “In life, he is exactly the opposite of what people think he is,” Lagerfeld said. “People who don’t know him have a completely different idea of the people who know him.”
Lagerfeld also talked about when he first met Arnault. “I met him when the Fendi takeover was in the air,” he recalled. “There were other people who wanted Fendi, too, but when I met him, I said to myself, ‘This one and nobody else’ and I was right. Fendi was a kind of mess then, but he said to me ‘Be patient,’ because I was ready to go. And he said, ‘No, no be patient, you will see.’ When he took over it was a difficult job. He invested in an unbelievable way and the numbers came back the way he expected.”
Wintour described Arnault as “a fascinating man. Obviously he’s quite hard to know,” she said. “He’s reserved, but also very direct and very clear: If there is something he wants you to be aware of, he doesn’t beat around the bushes, he’ll be very, very straightforward.”
She observed that Arnault is a very pensive person. “He’s always thinking, always thinking about the future. Not only about the iconic titles, but brands that he has. Dior was a ‘jolie madame’ house, you know that nice French ladies wore to lunch, and it was not in any way creating fashion, making fashion. There was no excitement around it. It was very staid and very safe.”
That brand could not be more different from Sephora, the French fragrance and beauty retailer that LVMH purchased in the late Nineties. Wintour added that with Sephora, “Everyone said he was crazy,” but she thought he was “completely ahead of the game.”
She also pointed out that she and Arnault share an admiration for tennis player Roger Federer.
“I think the happiest that I have ever seen Bernard was when his children secretly arranged for him to have a match with Roger,” Wintour said.
“And I swear he showed me the video, he acted it out stroke by stroke. And then just last week he was telling me about a more recent game that they had had. And at the end of the fifth game — it was five-zero, Roger said, ‘OK, well I’m gonna play now the way I would in a Grand Slam.’ So he stepped it up and all Bernard could talk to me about was the fact that he had actually won one point.”
Burke, meanwhile, called Arnault a dreamer. “He dreams big dreams,” Burke said. “And then he has the guts to go after those dreams. Sometimes, I try to tell him the dream is too big. But…he’s always right. The dreams are never big enough.”
The episode will air in the U.S. at 8:30 p.m. EST on April 27.