French billionaire Bernard Arnault is absolutely crazy. He’s gotta be otherwise it is bewildering why he keeps buying up all these luxury brands the world over and stuffing them into his already bulging LVMH portfolio. It is as if he has a secret ambition of global domination, or something. Which, if you want to know the truth, he has already pretty much achieved with the purchase of over 70 of the world’s most recognizable and revered brands. But he is not stopping. The guy has no stopping point. He just keeps going. He just keeps acquiring and buying and at some point, you wonder if, yea, is he just crazy? Or is he trying to see how much he can have before the whole thing implodes?

Obviously, LVMH is too big to fail. The company has put its pinkie into a lot of different companies in a lot of different domaines including journalism (the tabloid Le Parisien is owned by LVMH), wines and spirits, fashion, cosmetics, travel, and food to name a few.

The danger of being too big to fail probably does not apply to LVMH because the way these companies are structured, it looks like Arnault thought about it architecturally and structurally to ensure that if one fails, the whole house of cards will not come tumbling down. These acquisitions are all subsidiaries with their own locus of control and they are independent brands even though LVMH is their parent company.

What are these brands we are talking about? Frankly, they are too many to give you a complete list but let’s just say they include recognizable brands like Sephora, Louis Vuitton, Rimowa, Dom  Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Hennessy, Dior, Bon Marche, Christian Lacroix, Givenchy, Celine, Berluti, DKNY, Marc Jacobs, Pucci, Guerlain, Fenty and Fendi. Speaking of the latter, LVMH is reportedly in negotiations with rapper Nicki Minaj to create a collection for Fendi. LVMH is also currently in talks to buy Tiffany, the iconic American jewelry brand.

It’s just crazy.

The whole LVMH experiment has made Monsieur Arnault (and his children) very rich. It is almost unFrench how rich he is. According to Forbes, he is the third richest man in the world behind two Americans Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates but the rate at which LVMH is growing and piling up revenues annually (especially with highly profitable acquisitions like the Fenty brand) he could overtake Bezos and Gates in a year or two.

What is the secret to LVMH’s success? And is this brand a cool brand? When you listen to Mr Arnault discuss LVMH it is clear that he values the family aspect of his business. He stresses all the time that it is a family, not just his blood relatives but all of his acquisitions become a part of this extended family. That is kinda cool. And it seems to be a successful strategy for him – collaborating with family.

A respected taste-maker for luxury goods lovers and seekers the world over (with an increasingly heavy footprint in Asia) Arnault’s focus is on companies, artisans and personalities who understand that the true meaning of luxury is the state of having, desiring and producing “high quality” goods made by people who really care about not only what they do, but about the brand they are presenting to the world. The words “high quality” are at the cornerstone of his corporate world view, in fact, and reverberates throughout all of his communications – if you really listen to what he is saying when he speaks. And he speaks a lot. He is hardly the reclusive billionaire type.

So maybe it is a mistake to describe Arnault as crazy. No, he is not that. What he is is a visionary. He describes himself as an ambassador for French culture and heritage and is proud to export the “Made in France” savoir faire selectively and expensively across the globe.

What is next for LVMH and Arnault? Only time will tell. What we know is that he is a philanthropist (who has a soft spot for the murdered French queen Marie Antoinette) and a self-described fierce competitor who is also BFF with US President Donald Trump.  And he plays both tennis and piano pretty well. You have to wonder if either of those passions will result in his next acquisition for LVMH, or if he will just build another museum (to match the Foundation Louis Vuitton) or, if like his BFF Trump, his final stroke of branding genius will be to run for (and win!) the presidency of the Republic of France. Let’s see what develops.

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