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WASHINGTON — Bernard Arnault hit the nation’s capital Thursday like a politician on the campaign trail.
The chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton first met President Obama at the White House — where they discussed everything from globalization to employment — and then that night received the Corporate Citizenship award from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The night was filled with the Arnault Admirers Club, a diverse group of power elites who circulated around Arnault like electrons around a nucleus. The event drew the likes of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; J.C. Penney chief executive officer Myron E. “Mike” Ullman 3rd; Mark Weber, ceo of LVMH Inc. and chairman and ceo of Donna Karan International; Kevin Burke, president and ceo of American Apparel & Footwear Association, and Diane von Furstenberg and husband Barry Diller, as well as Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs and a slew of other LVMH-ites.
Also on hand was architect Frank Gehry, who has collaborated with LVMH on designs for the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Creation. Slated to bow in Paris in 2012, it will showcase LVMH’s art collection and provide a forum for young artists.
Obama took time away from battling with Congress over the stalemate of the federal budget that has been consuming Washington. With the President’s ear, Arnault said he discussed LVMH’s commitment to job creation in the U.S. and the importance of globalization.
“I think he is really committed to creating jobs in America, and I explained to him that we have created jobs in California with one of our ateliers, and also in Napa Valley, where we are producing wine in America,” Arnault told WWD.
Fair and sustainable trade was also a theme in Arnault’s acceptance speech later that night at the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown. He received the institute’s Corporate Citizenship award for his leadership in a broad array of social responsibility and philanthropic initiatives. Fellow Frenchman Jacques Attali, founder and president of PlaNet Finance, received the center’s award for public service for the group’s initiatives in restoring historic monuments, supporting major art exhibits and an extensive corporate social responsibility and sustainability program.