Bernard Arnault made his billions in dealmaking, buying scores of companies and building LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton into, well, LVMH — the cornerstone of the luxury industry.
As is true with all the best dealmakers, Arnault is not one to overpay, and now that COVID-19 has reordered the world since he agreed to buy Tiffany & Co. for $16.2 billion, his rough-and-tumble instincts appear to be coming to the fore.
But as he seeks to pull out of the Tiffany deal, citing a request from the French government as part of a U.S.-France trade dispute over digital services, he faces a cross-Atlantic counterparty that is also used to a little rough and tumble.
Tiffany chairman Roger Farah negotiated the deal and now has spoken out strongly against LVMH’s move to drop it. Tiffany has also filed a Delaware lawsuit to keep it alive, an action that could conceivable put Arnault literally on the stand.
As the two competitors-cum-partners-cum-combatants square off, here’s a quick look at generals leading the charge.
Title: Chairman and ceo, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
Net worth: $115 billion, according to Forbes.
Professional start: Engineer at the Ferret-Savinel construction company.
Milestone: Arnault became majority shareholder of LVMH in 1989.
Reputation: Arnault is seen widely as a savvy dealmaker who has not shied away from conflict as he consolidated power in the luxury world.
Title: Chairman, Tiffany & Co.
Formerly: Co-ceo of Tory Burch; president and chief operating officer of Ralph Lauren Corp.; chairman of Venator Group Inc. (Foot Locker, Inc.); president and chief operating officer of R.H. Macy & Co. Inc.; chairman and ceo of Federated Merchandising Services.
Early career: He held a series of executive positions at Saks Fifth Avenue from 1975 to 1987.
Milestone: Farah joined Ralph Lauren in 2000.
Reputation: Farah is seen as the consummate operator having helped transform Ralph Lauren into a global powerhouse. For years he has been on headhunters’ wishlist of ceo candidates, but Farah has largely held back, wielding a quiet forcefulness.