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FASHION VALUE CHAIN

The richest man in the world, Bernard Arnault, has chosen his eldest daughter, Delphine, to lead Christian Dior, his €382 billion (£337 billion) luxury conglomerate LVMH’s second-largest brand.

The reorganisation follows an unprecedented year for Arnault, in which the 73-year-net old’s worth surpassed that of US businessman Elon Musk and a jump in the share price of LVMH pushed the value of all firms listed in Paris over that of all companies listed in London.

In a move seen by many in the fashion industry as setting up a succession battle between Delphine, 47, and her brother Antoine, 45, who was promoted last month to run the holding company that controls LVMH and the $178 billion (£147 billion) Arnault fortune, Arnault is solidifying family control over a business he co-founded 35 years ago.

The competition, though, might be open to all five of Arnault’s kids. From his first marriage to Anne Dewavrin, Delphine and Antoine currently hold prominent positions within LVMH. The three children he shares with his second wife, Hélène Mercier, however, all have significant positions in the world’s largest luxury goods corporation, which also owns labels like Tiffany, Bulgari, TAG Heuer, and Stella McCartney.

The eldest kid, Jean Arnault, 24, is in charge of marketing and product development for the watches section of Louis Vuitton. Alexandre Arnault, 30, is an executive at Tiffany, Frederic Arnault, 28, is the CEO of TAG Heuer.

According to some experts, the rivalry between the Arnault kids is similar to that between Rupert Murdoch’s children or the Roys in the popular TV series Succession.

In order to succeed him as CEO of LVMH, which he co-founded in 1987, Arnault is reportedly organising a “Darwinian contest,” according to Luca Solca, an analyst at the investment firm Bernstein. Solca claims that his creation of a paradox and practise of “selling exclusivity by the million” was the key to his success.

The family business’ bylaws were altered last year to allow the chief executive to continue leading it until the age of 80 rather than the previous 75, so the heirs may have to wait a while before taking over management.

Delphine, who is now Louis Vuitton’s executive vice-president, will take over as Dior’s chief executive and chair on February 1, according to an announcement made by Arnault on Wednesday. 

“Louis Vuitton items became far more desirable under Delphine’s leadership, enabling the brand to consistently set new sales records,” he remarked. Her astute observations and unparalleled experience will be crucial assets in advancing Christian Dior’s development.

After spending two years working for the management consulting company McKinsey and attending the London School of Economics, Delphine Arnault joined the family business in 2000. In 2003, she became the first woman and youngest member of the LVMH board when she joined.

The appointment signifies Arnault’s return to the company she previously worked for in 2001, when she began by developing shoes before progressing to become deputy general manager and corresponding directly with John Galliano, Dior’s then creative director.

She was credited for minimising the effects of Galliano’s racist and antisemitic outbursts at patrons in a Parisian bar in 2011, which resulted in his dismissal and conviction for those offences.

Delphine Arnault has stated that she did not grow up among the family’s businesses or excessive wealth, but she does recall receiving a brown Louis Vuitton Noé bag for her 18th birthday and going to her first expensive party when she was 21.

“I have vivid memories of the 1996 100th anniversary ceremony. In 2014, Naomi Campbell told the Financial Times, “There was a great celebration and at the top of the room was Naomi Campbell appearing on stage on a giraffe.

She is married to Xavier Niel, a French telecoms millionaire and co-owner of the daily newspaper Le Monde. Among his vast array of holdings are the rights to the Frank Sinatra song My Way.

Her younger brother Antoine, a graduate of HEC Montreal and holder of an MBA from Insead, is thought to have been the driving force behind a recent Louis Vuitton commercial campaign that included Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo competing in a chess match captured by Annie Leibovitz.