Delphine Arnault: At the Forefront of LVMH's Future

1 minutes reading time
Published 21 Dec 2023
Reviewed by: Kasper Karlsson
Updated 22 Mar 2024

As the eldest child and only daughter of Bernard Arnault, founder and CEO of LVMH – the world's largest luxury goods conglomerate – Delphine Arnault has carved out a unique and influential role within the company. She currently serves as the CEO of Chrisitan Dior, the empire's second-largest brand and one to which Bernard himself is deeply attached. This article delves into Delphine's significant contributions and explores her potential to lead the luxury industry in the future.

Key Insights

  • Early involvement in luxury fashion: Delphine Arnault's exposure to the luxury fashion world began in childhood, accompanying her father, Bernard Arnault, to Dior stores and selling Dior perfume as a teenager, fostering a deep-rooted passion for fashion.

  • Diverse professional background: After studying at the London School of Economics, Delphine gained valuable experience at McKinsey & Company. She then rejoined LVMH in 2000 and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming the youngest and first female board member at LVMH.

  • Leadership at Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton: Delphine's expertise led her to significant roles within LVMH, including Deputy Chief at Christian Dior Couture and Director and Executive VP at Louis Vuitton. In 2023, she became the CEO and Chair of Christian Dior, marking a new era for the brand.

  • Key player in LVMH's succession planning: As the eldest of the Arnault siblings with the longest tenure at LVMH, Delphine's position as CEO of Dior and her board membership highlight her as a leading figure for the future of LVMH, potentially succeeding Bernard Arnault.

From LSE Graduate to CEO of Christian Dior

Born into a family synonymous with luxury (her father is Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH), Delphine's passion for fashion and luxury was evident from an early age. By the age of ten, she was already accompanying her father on visits to Dior stores, and started selling Dior perfume at 17, before carving her own path by pursuing studies at the London School of Economics (LSE), one of the world's leading universities.

Following her time at LSE, Delphine embarked on a career at McKinsey & Company, serving as a management consultant for two years. Her journey within LVMH, which she rejoined in 2000, marked the beginning of a series of significant accomplishments. By 2003, she had ascended to the position of board member at LVMH, setting a precedent as both the youngest person and the first woman to hold this role. Her influence extended beyond LVMH; she is also a board member of Moët Hennessy and Ferrari.

Further reading: Pricing Power Through Scarcity: A Case Study of Ferrari

In 2008, Delphine's expertise led her to the role of Deputy Chief at Christian Dior Couture, a position she maintained until 2013. That year marked a new chapter as she transitioned to Louis Vuitton, taking on the roles of Director and Executive Vice President. Here, she was reportedly in charge of all product-related activities for Louis Vuitton, LVMH's biggest brand. In her latest significant career milestone, she assumed the position of CEO and Chair of Christian Dior in January 2023, marking the beginning of a new era of leadership and vision for one of the world's most esteemed fashion brands.

A fascinating aspect of LVMH's early years and its acquisition journey is that Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, two of Bernard Arnault's initial acquisitions, remain his most cherished brands on a personal level. He is reportedly particularly focused on these brands and is known to enjoy visiting their physical stores the most. Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, Arnault's firstborn child and only daughter serves as the CEO of his first-ever acquisition, Christian Dior.

Delphine's Position in the LVMH Succession Race

In the intricate dynamics of the Arnault family's succession, Delphine's role as the CEO of Dior stands out as particularly noteworthy. With the longest tenure within LVMH, she not only heads the group's second-largest brand but also holds a unique position as the only Arnault child on the LVMH board alongside her brother Antoine.

As the eldest sibling, Delphine's extensive experience and established stature in high-profile roles arguably position her favorably compared to her younger siblings: Antoine Arnault, CEO of the family holding company Christian Dior SE; Alexandre Arnault, Executive Vice President at Tiffany & Co; Frédéric Arnault, CEO at TAG Heuer; and Jean Arnault, Watch Director at Louis Vuitton.

Her leadership at the crown jewel Dior not only underscores her capability and readiness to uphold and expand the family legacy but also reflects Bernard's trust in her abilities. Looking ahead to Bernard Arnault's eventual succession, Delphine's vast experience and current roles arguably makes her the most likely candidate to lead the LVMH empire into its next chapter.

Leadership Style and Similarities to Her Father

Paying surprise visits to stores is a habit of Bernard Arnault, and in this respect, Delphine mirrors her father. Those familiar with them note their shared natural authority and directness, coupled with a strong ambition. Their mutual passion for art and art collecting is also well-known.

Delphine has been instrumental in recruiting artistic directors for LVMH brands, bringing in talents like Raf Simons at Dior, Jonathan Anderson at Loewe, and Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton. In 2014, she initiated the LVMH Prize for Young Designers, fostering global design talent.

Beyond work, Delphine has two children with telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel and is an avid art collector. She is a board member of the Gagosian art gallery, alongside Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel, who is a family friend.

One of her notable initiatives was a 2019 Louis Vuitton project, where artists Jonas Wood and Alex Israel reimagined the Capucines handbag. As often with the Arnaults, the boundaries between work and personal interests seamlessly blend.

Concluding Remarks

Born into a family at the helm of LVMH, Delphine Arnault has seamlessly blended her early passion for fashion with a strong business acumen. As the eldest of the Arnault siblings, Delphine's experience and leadership at Dior position her as a key figure in the future of LVMH. Her ability to combine a keen sense for art and fashion with strategic business decisions, much like her father, underscores her potential to lead the family empire forward.

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