In 1984, Bernard Arnault learned that Christian Dior was for sale. Its parent company Boussac had filed for bankruptcy and the French government was looking for a buyer for the ailing textile empire that owned a number of companies, including Paris-based fashion house Dior. As the story goes, the then-35-year old Arnault – who had spent the previous 10 years heading up the construction firm founded by his grandfather – took $15 million from his family, combined it with $45 million from French financial institution Lazard Frères, and purchased Boussac in a quest to get his hands on the famed French fashion house.
As the New York Times would write in December 1989, within two years of acquiring Boussac, “Arnault had pushed [the company] into the black, laying off 9,000 workers and selling off [its] disposable-diaper division and most of its textile operations for $500 million.” While that deal helped Arnault to “leapfrog from his family’s $15 million-a-year business to a company 20 times as large,” and earned him the title of “a force to reckon with in French business,” an ever acquisition was to follow: his 1990 spree to gain control of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey, the merged fashion house and spirits company, in which Arnault first invested in the late 1980s.
Since then, Arnault – now 71 years old and the among the richest men in the world, according to Bloomberg’s running “Billionaires” list – has spent billions of dollars and worked doggedly to amass no less than 70 luxury brands under the umbrella of the group that is now coined LVMH Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton.
Reflecting on his idea to put so many luxury brands — including those competing with each other — under one roof, Arnault told CNBC in 2018, “In the 90s, I had the idea of a luxury group and at the time I was very much criticized for it. I remember people telling me it doesn’t make sense to put together so many brands. And it was a success … And for the last 10 years now, every competitor is trying to imitate, which is very rewarding for us. I think they are not successful but they try.”
Here is a look at the timeline behind the building of the world’s most valuable luxury goods conglomerate …
(Please note: the following is in no way exhaustive of the acquisitions and entities that exist in relation to LVMH, and instead, focuses exclusively on fashion and a few beauty and jewelry-related entities.)
1987: Louis Vuitton – Founded in France in 1854, Louis Vuitton became part of LVMH in 1987 when the conglomerate was created. Moët et Chandon and Hennessy, leading manufacturers of champagne and cognac, merged respectively with Louis Vuitton to form the luxury goods conglomerate.
1988: Givenchy – Founded in 1952, Givenchy, a couture and ready-to-wear brand, has been part of the LVMH Group since 1988. (For the full story of how Givenchy ended up under the LVMH umbrella, you can find that here.)
1993: Berluti – Founded in 1895 by Italian Alessandro Berluti, the men’s shoes, leather goods, and men’s ready-to-wear brand was acquired by LVMH in 1993.
1993: Kenzo – Founded in 1970, the womenswear and menswear brand was acquired by LVMH in 1993 for $80 million.
1994: Guerlain – The French perfume, cosmetics, and skincare brand, which is among the oldest in the world, was owned and managed by members of Guerlain family from its inception in 1828 to 1994, at which point it was acquired by LVMH.
1996: Céline – Founded in 1945, the Paris-based brand offers ready-to-wear items, leather goods, shoes and accessories. In 1987, Arnault bought into Céline’s capital, but it was only in 1996 that the brand was integrated into the LVMH Group for 2.7 billion French francs ($540 million).
1996: Loewe – The Spanish company created in 1846 was acquired by LVMH in 1996. Originally specializing in very high-quality leather work, today, Loewe offers leather goods and ready-to-wear.
1997: Marc Jacobs – LVMH has held a majority stake in the New York-based brand, which was founded in 1984, since 1997. Marc Jacobs, himself, became the creative director of womenswear for Louis Vuitton in 1997, staying until 2013, when he left to focus on his eponymous label.
1997: Sephora – The French cosmetics chain, which was founded in 1969, was brought under the LVMH umbrella in July 1997, and has since been expanded globally.
1999: Thomas Pink – Founded in 1984 and acquired by LVMH in 1999, Thomas Pink is a recognized specialist in high-end shirts in the U.K. LVMH is understood to have paid around 30 million pounds to Thomas Pink’s owner, the Irish Mullen family, for two-thirds of the company.
1999: Tag Heuer – The Swiss company, which was founded in 1860, accepted a $739 million bid from LVMH in 1999 in exchange for 50.1 percent ownership.
1999: Gucci Group – On January 6, 1999, it publicly emerged that LVMH had acquired a 5 percent stake in Gucci. LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault was adamant that it was a passive stake and he had every intention of letting Gucci remain independent. Arnault increased LVMH’s stake to 34.4 percent by January 26, 1999.
In September 1999, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (which is now known as Kering) agreed to pay LVMH $806 million for the majority of stake in the Gucci Group. At the same time, LVMH announced plans to sell its remaining shares in Gucci, about 12 million, to a financial institution by year-end. (For a full look at LVMH’s unsuccessful fight for the Gucci Group, you can find that here.)
2000: Emilio Pucci – The Italian company, which was founded in Florence in 1947, was acquired by LVMH in 2000. LVMH paid an undisclosed sum for a 67 percent ownership stake.
2000: Rossimoda – The Italian fashion company was founded in 1977. LVMH took a minority stake in the company in 2000 and at a later date, acquired sole ownership.
2001: La Samaritaine – LVMH acquired acquired a 55 percent stake in iconic French department store La Samaritaine (and its real estate) in 2001 for €256 million. It increased its ownership stake to 100 percent in 2010. (Full a full look at LVMH’s fight for La Samaritaine, you can find that here.)
2001: Fendi – The Italian company, which was founded in Rome in 1925, has been part of the LVMH Group since 2000. In July 2000, LVMH – and Prada – both acquired ownership stakes in Fendi. In December 2001, LVMH bought Prada’s stake, increasing its share in Fendi to 51 percent. LVMH further increased its ownership stake to 84 percent in February 2003.
2001: DKNY – In 2001, LVMH acquired an 89 percent stake in the New York-based brand, which was founded in 1984. LVMH sold the company to G-III Apparel Group in December 2016 for $650 million.
2001: Hermès – In 2001, LVMH acquired an initial stake in Hermès of 4.9 percent through subsidiaries, and continued to accumulate shares in its Paris-based rival by buying equity derivatives through financial intermediaries and subsidiaries, with each keeping holdings below 5 percent. In October 2010, LVMH announced (to much surprise in the market) that it had acquired a cumulative 14.2 percent stake and in December 2011, announced that raised its stake in Hermès to 22.6 percent, and then to 23.1 percent as of 2013.
Following the culmination of an investigation by the French financial services watchdog, Autorité des marchés financiers, which found that LVMH had secretly bought shares in rival Hermès to build a stake in the iconic design house, and not merely to make a financial investment as LVMH had claimed, and an intervention by a French court, LVMH announced that it would distribute its 23 percent stake in Hermès to its shareholders and institutional investors and agreed not to buy more shares in Hermès for the next five years.
LVMH’s shares in Hermès were fully distributed such that LVMH no longer held any Hermès shares as of December 31, 2015. (For a more in-depth look at the proceedings between LVMH and Hermès, you can find that here).
2009: EDUN – Founded by Ali Hewson and Bono in 2005 to promote fair trade in Africa by sourcing production throughout the continent, the founders sold 49 percent of the company to LVMH in May 2009. In June 2018, LVMH divested its minority stake in the brand back to its founders.
2010: Moynat – Groupe Arnault, LVMH’s CEO Bernard Arnault’s holding company bought Moynat, the 19th-century trunk-maker five years older than Louis Vuitton.
2011: Bulgari – Founded in 1884, the Italian jewelry brand was acquired by LVMH in an all-share deal for $6.01 billion, in which the Bulgari family sold their 50.4 percent controlling stake in exchange for 3 percent of LVMH.
2013: Loro Piana – LVMH acquired an 80 percent stake in the Italian luxury textile and ready-to-wear company, which was founded in 1924, in December 2013 for 2 billion euros.
2013: Nicholas Kirkwood – In 2013, LVMH acquired a 52 percent stake in the British footwear company, which was founded in 2004. In September 2020, Kirkwood announced that it will take back full ownership of its brand from LVMH in a transaction that would be completed by the end of 2020.
2013: J.W. Anderson – In addition to announcing that Jonathan Anderson would take the helm of Loewe, LVMH acquired a minority stake in Anderson’s eponymous J.W. Anderson label for an undisclosed sum.
2015: Repossi – LVMH acquired a 41.7 percent stake in the family-run Italian jewelry brand in November 2015. It upped its stake in Repossi to 69 percent in 2019.
2016: Rimowa – LVMH acquired an 80 percent stake in the German luggage company, which was founded in 1989, for 640 million euros in October 2016.
2017: Christian Dior – LVMH technically acquired the Paris-based couture house in 2017 in a $13.1 billion deal. Prior to the deal, Groupe Arnault, which is the private holding company holding owned and controlled by Bernard Arnault, was the only declared major shareholder in Christian Dior S.A. (For a more in-depth look at the previous Dior ownership structure, you can find that here).
2018: Jean Patou – LVMH bought a majority stake in Jean Patou, a French couture label that it says it will revive by relaunching its ready-to-wear clothing collections. LVMH bought the controlling stake from Britain’s Designer Parfums Ltd.
2019: Fenty – LVMH officially launched a new label, Fenty, as part of a joint venture with musician Rihanna, who holds a 49.99 percent stake in the new label, while LVMH owns the majority 50.01 percent.
2019: Stella McCartney – LVMH entered into a “joint venture” with Stella McCartney are the brand ended its longstanding joint venture with rival conglomerate Kering. The terms of the parties’ deal have not been disclosed, although it has been reported that Ms. McCartney remains the majority owner of her eponymous label.
2020: Tiffany & Co. – On the heels of LVMH attempting to pull out of a deal to acquire Tiffany & Co. for a whopping $16.2 billion ($135/share), and the initiation of a legal battle by Tiffany, the parties agreed to a renegotiated deal, in which LVMH will acquire all of Tiffany’s share for $131.50 each, in furtherance of a $15.8 billion transaction. (For a timeline of the Tiffany, LVMH deal and litigation, you can find that here).
*This article was initially published in March 2018 and has been updated accordingly.