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French Luxury Deathmatch


We were digging through our magazine pile when we belatedly ran across the Wall Street Journal’s magazine profile of LVMH honcho Bernard Arnault, which is amazing mostly as a masterpiece of diplomacy. The Journal is just getting its WSJ fashion periodical on its feet, and the last thing they need is to tick off the richest man in France.

As a result, there’s nothing too juicy, but we did get a peek at an old rivalry we’d almost forgotten about. This one concerns two French luxury giants tussling over an iconic Italian brand, only to stage an uneasy reunion over their shared love of money. It’s heady stuff—in fact, we’re working on the movie version already.

The tail end of the 90s saw Arnault pitted against François Pinault—France’s second richest man—for control of Gucci. Pinault got control of Gucci in the end, but the stock tanked immediately after, giving Arnault the upper least according to the Journal. We have our own scorecard, and we'd say keeping Gucci out of LVMH comes much closer to a draw, market crash or no. Of course, there's always politics to consider. Pinault's close friend Chirac was still in office in those days, and it's hard to say how it would have played out if Arnault's buddy Nicolas Sarkozy had been in charge.

The journal profile ends on a light note—the two nemeses sharing a conciliatory lunch—but we wouldn’t hold our breath. Next time there’s a Picasso up for auction in Paris, they’ll be at each others throats once again.