Five families, all of them of French, dominate the world’s luxury markets, weaving a network that covers fine jewelry, watches fashion, cosmetics, fragrances and other products, stretching from Europe, across North America, the Arabian Gulf, Asia and Japan, Oceana, South and Central America and, today, Africa as well.
All five families, which were the subject of recent Bloomberg report are multi-generational, and their iron-grip hold on the sector is indicative of the massive influence that France still has within the luxury product space, even though the bulk of new consumers are being found further abroad, particularly in Asia.
Even in a relatively tough economic environment their wealth continues to grow, Bloomberg reported, accumulatively increasing by $93 billion this year alone. Together they represent a total net worth exceeding $600 billion.
The five families are the following:
THE ARNAULT FAMILY
The family is headed by 74-year-old Bernard Arnault, who is the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury goods company.
Arnaud and his family have an estimated net worth of $240 billion as of April 2023, and according to Forbes he is today the wealthiest person in the world, outstripping Elon Musk.
Arnaud built LVMH into a 75-brand fashion juggernaut. Its extremely powerful jewelry portfolio includes Bulgari, Chaumet, Repossi and Fred, and the recently acquired Tiffany & Co.
Arnault’s father made his money in construction, and gave his son his start by putting up $15 million to buy Christian Dior in 1984.
Arnault’s five children all work at LVMH; and in July 2022 he proposed a reorganization of his holding company Agache to give them equal stakes.
THE BETTENCOURT MEYERS FAMILY
With a personal fortune of $93.3 billion, which us $21.8 billion jump since the start of the year according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the family is headed by 69-year-old Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the wealthiest woman on the planet.
It earns it money predominantly from cosmetics, and more specifically L’Oreal, the makeup and skincare empire founded by Francoise’s grandfather, Eugène Schueller.
Vice chairwoman of the company’s board, Francoise’s sons Jean-Victor Meyers and Nicolas Meyers are also directors. The family is single biggest shareholders with a stake of almost 35 percent.
Together, L’Oreal and the Bettencourt Meyers family donated $226 million to repair Notre Dame Cathedral, following the extensive damage it suffered in a fire in April 2019.
THE HERMES/DUMAS FAMILY
There are dozens of heirs to the Hermès fortune, but two cousins, Pierre-Alexis and Axel Dumas, head the Parisian fashion house, which in addition to leatherware, silk goods and accessories is a major jewelry producer
The six generation family still controls 67 percent of Hermes International, founded by Thierry Hermes in 1837, and is today ranked by Bloomberg the fifth-richest family in the world.
The family currently has an estimated net worth of $157 billion, up from $95 billion in October.
THE PINAULT FAMILY
The Kering Group was founded by François Pinault, who also established the investment holding company Artémis. Best known for its ownership of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, its jewelry brands include Boucheron, Pomellato, DoDo and Qeelin.
The family’s holding company, Financière Pinault, also owns the auction house Christie’s as well as vineyards, the cruise line Compagnie du Ponant and the French weekly magazine Le Point.
According to Bloomberg, the fortune owned by the founder has climbed 24 percent to $44.3 billion.
Pinault’s son, François-Henri, has been chairman and CEO since 2005.
THE WERTHEIMER FAMILY
Alain and Gerard Wertheimer are French billionaire brothers who control the Chanel fashion brand. Their net worth rose 16 percent this year to $100.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg wealth index
Alain is the chairman and a controlling shareholder in Chanel, and Gérard chairs the watch division. Their grandfather, Pierre, co-founded Chanel with Coco Chanel in 1910. Chanel’s High Jewelry line was established in November 1932.
Mousse Investments Ltd., the brothers’ holding company, is based in the Cayman Islands, and their family office, Mousse Partners, is run by bay half-brother Charles Heilbronn. The firm is currently investing in Rothschild & Co. to take the bank private