TITLE: Chairman and chief executive officer.
COMPANY: LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton
NOMINATED FOR: France’s richest man, Arnault had a topsy-turvy year. He unwittingly, and some charged unfairly, became the poster boy for antirich sentiment in France, culminating with a page one headline in French daily Libération that roughly translated to “Get Lost Rich Idiot.” France’s new Socialist government had unveiled plans to tax incomes of more than 1 million euros ($1.3 million at current exchange) at a 75 percent rate, and Arnault had confirmed an application for Belgian citizenship, while vowing to remain a fiscal resident of France. If that was a low, the high came about a month later, when Britain’s Foreign & Commonwealth office notified him that Queen Elizabeth II had approved an honorary award that will make him a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Arnault continued to prove himself a formidable player in the luxury sector, telling LVMH shareholders in April that it’s important to take a long-term perspective in business — and innovate constantly — especially amid foggy economic circumstances. “It is we who create the future of our business,” he said. “It’s not what we will do today, but what we will do in 10 to 15 years.”
Arnault placed long-term bets on two diverse, although small, businesses. He became an investor in elite French hi-fi maker Devialet, and is said to have taken a small stake in young French designer Maxime Simoens.