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Bernard Arnault, CEO of luxury super-conglomerate LVMH and the second-richest man on Earth, has a choice to make.
According to a profile published Thursday by The New York Times, the 74-year-old corporate titan—who controls 75 top luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Dior, Dom Pérignon, TAG Heuer, and Tiffany & Co.—is currently evaluating which of his five children he might select to inherit his business empire.
The decision is a consequential one, which will likely shape the trajectory of the world’s most powerful luxury player for decades to come. The choice also stands to have a sizable impact on the centrality of emerging technologies—particularly, the blockchain—to the strategy and image of the dozens of leading luxury brands under LVMH’s thumb.
Two of Arnault’s sons—Alexandre, 31, executive vice president of product and communications at Tiffany, and Frédéric, 28, CEO of TAG Heuer—are credited with encouraging their father to embrace blockchain technology and NFTs. They’ve convinced him to push related innovations through LVMH portfolio companies including Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, TAG, and, most recently, Dior.
If either Alexandre or Frédéric were to succeed their father and assume personal control of LVMH, blockchain and other cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence, would all but certainly take on a more central role at LVMH-owned companies, which also include Bulgari, Givenchy, Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, and Hennessy.
Given LVMH’s size and stature, such decisions would also likely influence, if not outright guide strategy and trends in the broader luxury and fashion industries. But Alexandre and Frédéric aren’t the only heirs jockeying for the crown—Arnault’s other three children all work in leadership positions at LVMH companies, and were also groomed for those roles from a young age.
Delphine, 48, Arnault’s eldest child and only daughter, serves as chairwoman and CEO of Dior; Antoine, 46, guides LVMH’s image while running fashion brands Berluti and Loro Piana; Jean, 24, heads Louis Vuitton’s watch division.
According to the Times, Arnault gathers his five progeny for lunch every month at the top floor of LVMH’s headquarters in Paris, for what the children understand to be an unspoken evaluation of their readiness to one day take the top job.
That day may be a ways away—Arnault recently convinced the LVMH board to raise the mandatory retirement age for his CEO position from 75 to 80—but when it comes, it would appear the businessman is positioning a blood disciple to succeed him. Last year, he reshaped the corporate structure of LVMH to guarantee that each of his children has a 20% stake in the company, and that none could sell any shares for 30 years without unanimous board approval.
Arnault’s children insist that their rapport is decidedly amicable, despite the frequent comparisons made in recent years between them and the ill-fated Roys of the acclaimed HBO series "Succession."
But just as with the premise of that show, there can only be one. Which Arnault heir, if any, ends up taking the reins at LVMH will certainly be a decision that impacts not only the fashion and luxury industries, but also the mainstream adoption of crypto at culture’s highest level.