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PARIS — Cue generation next at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
This story first appeared in the December 6, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
On Thursday, the French luxury group said Antoine Arnault, the 36-year-old son of LVMH chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault, would become chairman of Loro Piana, the Italian luxury house the French group acquired in July.
Brothers Sergio and Pier Luigi Loro Piana, who maintain a 20 percent stake, are to become vice presidents of the company. Previously, Pier Luigi was chairman while Sergio was ceo, and the siblings rotated those posts on a three-year basis.
Revealed in tandem with the official closing of the deal after it cleared antitrust authorities, Antoine Arnault’s appointment telegraphs growing responsibilities for the eldest children of luxury titan Bernard Arnault.
Antoine Arnault is also ceo of Berluti, spearheading an effort to transform the cult cobbler into a global lifestyle label for men. He was seen as instrumental in the multibillion-dollar Loro Piana transaction, and is expected to leverage its arsenal of plush and rare fabrics for Berluti’s elite range of ready-to-wear.
In September, Delphine Arnault, Antoine’s 38-year-old sister, was named second-in-command at Louis Vuitton, the largest and most profitable brand in the family-controlled group.
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She also emerged this year as a key designer scout for the group, having been intricately involved in the recruitment of Nicolas Ghesquière as artistic director of women’s collections at Louis Vuitton. She was instrumental in the hiring of leather goods designer Darren Spaziani for Vuitton, the majority acquisition of British footwear design firm Nicholas Kirkwood, and the minority investment in rising London fashion star J.W. Anderson, who was also handed the design reins at Loewe.
The siblings, described by sources as close, have each spent the lion’s share of their careers at LVMH, rising through the ranks of the group.
Antoine Arnault has frequently described himself and his sister as “perfect targets” for luxury goods marketers, given their financial means and appreciation for the finer things in life.
While both are viewed as less imposing than their father, Antoine Arnault is seen as more easygoing than his sister, who tends to be more guarded.
“He’s just sort of like everybody else. I don’t look at him as Bernard Arnault’s son. He’s just Antoine, just as he sees me as Marc, not creative director at Louis Vuitton,” Marc Jacobs said in a 2007 interview. “He’s really easygoing, quite nice to be around. He played piano for my 40th birthday with Jennifer Lopez. He just seems like one of your friends.”
Bernard Arnault, 64, also has three younger children with his second wife, Canadian pianist Hélène Mercier.
Antoine Arnault was scheduled to make a number of appearances at LVMH-related events during Art Basel Miami Beach, but did not make it in the end. His sister made the rounds, including a Vuitton dinner Wednesday night.
At a Vuitton barbecue on Thursday, ceo Michael Burke attributed the siblings’ rise to a number of personal traits, like passion and patience, plus a third factor. “Genes,” he said. “They have a great education.”
Asked to distinguish between the siblings’ management style, he offered: “Delphine is intense, Antoine is gregarious.”
An affable and enthusiastic executive, Antoine Arnault started his career with Internet startup Domainoo.com. He joined Vuitton in 2002, working in its marketing department and overseeing stores in the French provinces. He has been a member of LVMH’s board since 2006.
He was named Vuitton’s communications director in 2007, expanding its advertising footprint to television and movie theaters, and expanding its online presence. He was named ceo of Berluti in 2011, while continuing as an adviser to Vuitton on communications.
That year, he also spearheaded an LVMH-wide initiative called Journées Particulières, inviting the public to visit European workshops across the group’s various business divisions, giving a behind-the-scenes insight into how jewelry, leather goods, Champagne and other products are made.
Delphine Arnault started her career at management consultancy McKinsey and Co. In 2000, she joined John Galliano’s signature house and headed business development there before moving over to Christian Dior, where Galliano was then couturier, as a member of its executive committee. In 2003, she was elected to the board.
She was named Dior’s deputy managing director in 2008, and played a key role in developing its leather goods and accessories businesses in particular. She is also a director at a variety of LVMH-owned concerns, including the fashion houses Céline, Emilio Pucci and Loewe; newspaper Les Echos, and wine producer Château Cheval Blanc.
A friendly yet discreet executive, Delphine Arnault rarely gives interviews, preferring to demonstrate her decisive and enterprising nature behind closed doors.
Last month, she unveiled her latest project — the LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize, which comes with a grant of 300,000 euros, or $407,500 at current exchange, plus a year of coaching.
“Creativity has always been at the center of what we do at LVMH,” she said at the time. “As the leader in our industry, it’s our responsibility to find talent, to help talent grow and to help designers structure their company.”
Meanwhile, LVMH characterized Thursday’s developments at Loro Piana as a sign of continuity and mutual respect between like-minded firms.
“The appointment of Antoine Arnault is a strong signal of the friendship between our two families now,” the Loro Piana brothers said in a statement. “LVMH’s expertise in high-end luxury, demonstrated for over a decade at Louis Vuitton and now with the development of Berluti, is indisputable.”
Arnault said he would work “hand in hand” with Loro Piana to realize its “huge potential.”
LVMH paid 2 billion euros, or $2.72 billion at current exchange, for its 80 percent stake in Loro Piana.
Billed as one of luxury’s largest cashmere manufacturers and the biggest single purchaser of the world’s finest wools, Loro Piana is expected to close out 2013 with revenues of 700 million euros, or $950.7 million at current exchange, with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization representing more than 20 percent of sales.
LVMH has identified leather goods as a chief avenue for future expansion of the brand, along with further retail inroads in Asia, particularly Mainland China and the Middle East.