Tiffany Role Puts Billionaire Arnault’s Son in Luxury Big League

A chance to help run the iconic American jewelerTiffany & Co. has catapulted Alexandre Arnault into the luxury world’s top echelons.

The 28-year-old son of French billionaire Bernard Arnault was thrust into the limelight on Thursday with a key role at Tiffany, afterLVMH completed its $16 billionon-again-off-again takeover — the luxury industry’s biggest. Alexandre was named executive vice president for products and communication, and will help new Chief Executive Officer Anthony Ledru oversee the company.

For the third of LVMH founder Arnault’s five children, the move marks a leap from managing a small suitcase maker for the group to work at one of the world’s best-known jewelry brands withpre-pandemic annual revenue of about $4.4 billion. It also makes him a more serious contender to some day run the luxury empire built by his 71-year-old father.

“Bernard Arnault is building a fair process between the Arnault siblings by testing them,” saidPhilippe Pele-Clamour, adjunct professor at business school HEC Paris. “That will allow them to understand if they can lead such a group.”

The first son of Arnault’s second wife, Alexandre is in the line of succession to one of the world’s biggest fortunes. His father has a net worth of about $114 billion through his holdings in LVMH andCarrefour SA, making him Europe’s richest and the world’s fourth-wealthiest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Alexandre’s ascent provides fresh fodder for the chattering classes in France, which closely track the family for signs of who Arnault’s anointed successor might be. Although it may be a long while before Arnault — whoremains hands on in the business — is ready to retire, the guessing game continues. Four of the five Arnault children are currently involved in the company, Europe’s second-largest by market value afterNestle SA.

While Jean is still a student, Alexandre’s younger brother Frederic manages watchmaker Tag Heuer. Delphine, Alexandre’s half-sister, is executive vice president of Louis Vuitton, while half-brother Antoine heads shoemaker Berluti and oversees image, communications and the environment for LVMH.

An engineer by training — graduating from France’s Ecole Telecom ParisTech and Ecole Polytechnique — Alexandre has since 2017 led German luggage maker Rimowa, acquired by LVMH the year before. The executive, who will be based in New York for his new role, began his career in the U.S., first atMcKinsey & Company and then atKKR. He joined LVMH andGroupe Arnault, focusing on digital innovation and honing his management skills at Fendi before moving to Rimowa.

The suitcase maker is a small part of LVMH’s fashion and leather goods unit, which represented more than 40% of the conglomerate’s sales of 53.7 billion euros ($65 billion) in 2019 — mostly driven by Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior brands. A year ago, releasing annual results, Bernard Arnault said Rimowa had achieved “remarkable growth since we acquired it.”

At Tiffany, Alexandre and Ledru will have their hands full as the luxury industry contends with the second year of a pandemic that’s forced store closures across the world and shrunk discretionary spending. Still, their collaboration will help take Alexandre up the learning curve, said Luca Solca, an analyst at Bernstein.

“The idea of pairing experienced managers with up-and-coming family members, and possible future leaders, creates a fruitful environment,” he said, adding that it can “avoid mistakes, and prove one’s true value.”

The Tiffany appointment caps an eventful month for Alexandre, who with Antoine is the family’s highest-profile member, with an active Instagram account of posts of everything from Rimowa’s products and family photos to meetings with billionaires Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett. A few weeks ago, he used the account to announce hisengagement to his girlfriend, saying “engaged to my soulmate and my best friend,” with the emoji of a ring.

— With assistance by Benjamin Stupples

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