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Arnault? Ah yes!

Arnault? Ah yes!

Succession planning in style is going on at LVMH – Europe’s first half-trillion-dollar company

Long Stories Short

  • Sara Saeed, director of the Sudan Natural History Museum, warned treasures of Nubian archeology were at risk of being looted. 
  • Actress Eva Green won a High Court battle to keep her $1 million fee from an abandoned sci-fi film.
  • Former Fugees rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel was found guilty of illegal lobbying in the US. Read Liz Moseley’s account of the court case from earlier this month – the story of the missing Malaysian millions.

Arnault? Ah yes!

by Gilès Whittell

Ten refurbished floors of Tiffany reopened on Fifth Avenue this week with a blowout sushi and Krug party for le tout Manhattan, after what the hosts called the biggest investment in the history of luxury goods.

So what? It’s a fair question in a time of war, but Tiffany is the sparkly summit (along with Dior) of a luxury goods ziggurat that’s more profitable just now than software or electric cars; an empire of money built on thousand-dollar trainers and luggage that costs more than anything you can fit inside. And if you weren’t invited to the party it probably means you aren’t in line to run the group or inherit the world’s biggest fortune. 

Then who is? That is a roughly $235 billion question. The contenders are five grown-up French children named Delphine, Antoine, Alexandre, Frédéric and Jean. Their father is Bernard Arnault, the world’s richest person. His empire is LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and LVMH’s new accolade as Europe’s first half-trillion-dollar company has occasioned a burst of excitement about who’ll take over when he hangs up his Monte Carlo moccasins.

Spoiler alert. He won’t; not any time soon. Arnault is an engineer, not a flaneur. Like his arch-rival Francois Pinault (Gucci, Balenciaga; net worth a flaccid $41 billion) he was raised in unfashionable northern France and brings a hair-shirted relentlessness to “luxury”. He’s 74 and in good health. He’s spent 40 years building his business and shows little sign of giving it up.

Au contraire. Arnault has arranged for the LVMH board to raise his mandatory retirement age to 80. “He’s going to be there until he doesn’t want to be there any more,” says Lauren Sherman of Puck News, who’s watched Arnault take New York. “That could be ten years.”

So the kids are going to have to be patient, which will be easier for some than others.

  • Delphine, 48, has run Dior since February.
  • Antoine, 45, runs the family office.
  • Alexandre, 30, is executive vice president at Tiffany.
  • Frédéric, 28, is in charge of the Tag Heuer brand.
  • Jean, 24, does marketing and development at Louis Vuitton watches.

They’re all partnered with mentors and invited to monthly lunches with their father at which, per the WSJ, he pumps them for advice. Delphine is most people’s bet as heir apparent but unlike her and Antoine the youngest three went to the École Polytechnique in Paris, Bernard’s alma mater and the only university he respects.

The money. That 235 bill is $67 billion more than the net worth of Elon Musk, the world’s second-richest person. The difference alone is nearly three times Iceland’s GDP, the result of a two-stage surge in LVMH’s share price in the past four years.

  • Stage one: Covid shuts America’s professional class indoors with furlough payments to top up its wages. “2021 was the best year ever for luxury goods in the US because all these people got stimulus cheques, and they had jobs and salaries but nothing to spend it on,” Sherman says. “So they went online and bought Louis Vuitton wallets.”
  • Stage two: in January China emerges from lockdown with the pent-up purchasing power of a 350 million-strong middle class, and almost immediately there are complaints of handbag shortages on Xiaohongshu, the Chinese answer to Instagram. LVMH’s market cap grew by 18 per cent in the first quarter of this year alone.

Happy hidden. “Pour vivre heureux il faut vivre caché,” the billionaires’ mantra goes. To live happy, live hidden. The trouble for Arnault is you can’t keep a fortune his size entirely hidden in France if you want to pass it on. 

The fuss. Last year his lawyers quietly incorporated a new holding company, Agache Commandite SAS, giving each child an equal share of the family’s stake and the power to take over from him in due course – but also preventing any of them selling up for 30 years. 

None of them seems inclined to. All have time to impress. So keep an eye on young Frédéric at Tag Heuer, who’s just released a short film starring Ryan Gosling playing himself as a pitchman for fancy watches who keeps trying to run off with them after the shoot. At the end the action cuts to the message: “The race never stops.” Dad couldn’t have put it better. 


The Nibs

(News in brief)

It’s complicated

Two lone wolves and one Fox
Just as courage calls to courage everywhere, so too do younger siblings and black sheep. Among the many illuminating details of Prince Harry’s witness statement in his legal battle against News Group Newspapers, was an eye-opening alliance with “kindred spirit” James Murdoch. Both second-born sons who dramatically quit the family business, the Duke of Sussex says they first met at a Google camp, where James “made a real effort to try and come and talk to me despite my security detail trying to keep me away from him”. 

Harry was drawn to the man who had “broken away from the cult that is the Murdoch dynasty.” Just a small snag: James was executive chairman of News International during the phone hacking era, over which Harry is suing. James was involved throughout: he announced the closure of News of the World, was accused of “wilful ignorance” by MPs, and joined his father during an infamous parliamentary grilling in which Murdoch senior received a custard pie to the face. But no matter. Since breaking with his family over Fox News’s support for Donald Trump, James has become a “lone wolf”, according to a recent Vanity Fair deep dive, who “sees destroying Fox News as his life’s mission.” Kindred spirits indeed. Succession writers in need of a spin-off series need look no further.


Power players

Behind every successful litigator
As American advice columnist E. Jean Carroll’s rape lawsuit against Donald Trump moves into its surreal phase – with Trump mouthing off on Truth Social, causing the judge to warn that he may “be tampering with a new source of potential liability” – the very American role of litigation backers has emerged from the shadows. Step forward Reid Hoffman, the billionaire founder of LinkedIn, who has bankrolled Carroll’s allegations. Litigation backers usually invest in sure wins. Hoffman, conversely, is bidding for the George Soros Most Hated by the Right slot, raising hundreds of millions from donors who are throwing their money behind progressive causes.


Who is… India Amarteifio

The masked rapper 
For the first time in Weekend Sensemaker, we really are asking: who is… ? UK rapper Dide’s debut track Thrill has already reached 1.2 million views on YouTube. The twist? He says he’s a footballer and his identity has been hidden by wearing a mask in the video and all supporting promotional material on social media. The mystery has sent internet sleuths on a hunt to unmask the rapper, whose Instagram bio reads: “Rapper at home, footballer on the pitch.⁣” His first video claims he is a Premier League footballer, but Dide is not wasting any time cashing in on his alternative fame, selling out a line of 100 T-shirts at £39.99 a pop. Of course, one might think that if he were actually a Premier League footballer, he wouldn’t need the cash. 


It touched us

To new beginnings
Titan of the stage Adele joined James Corden for a drive through Los Angeles in the final Carpool Karaoke segment of his Late Late Show, ahead of his return to the UK. The two have been based out of LA for the past eight years. They laughed and cried and belted out tunes from Adele’s repertoire from ‘Rolling in the Deep’ to ‘I Drink Wine’ – a song she reveals was inspired by a six-hour late-night conversation she’d had with Corden. Adele said Corden and his family had been “so integral” in looking after her following her divorce, pointing out that she’s “never lived in LA without you guys so I’m a bit nervous about it, to be honest with you, and very, very sad.” Though James Corden has become a bit of a Marmite-like figure in recent years, you don’t have to like the guy to appreciate a genuine friendship.


It tickled us

A pet project
Going through an unexpected revival, clogs have taken this season’s runways and the feet of the rich and Insta-famous by storm. J.W. Andersons’s recent take on the shoe de jour is a frogtastic refashioning of Willipets’ iconic frog-eye wellies. Cast your mind back to MSCHF’s cartoonish Big Red Boots of last winter to understand why Anderson has created the perfect shoe for (a British) summer. Nostalgic and waterproof, these slipper-y amphibians are not quite your mother’s gardening clogs – and have a cool £370 price tag to prove it.


Thank you and farewell

Bit of a comedown
In 2017, London’s nightclub scene was in a sorry state. Ravers were still mourning the loss of landmark venues like Turnmills, SeOne and Bagleys. Rising rents, property developers and kill-joy councils had closed the doors of Madame JoJos, Plastic People and other small but influential dancefloors. But all that changed when Printworks arrived in the former Harmsworth Quays printing plant. The thundering of the printing presses that churned out the Daily Mail was replaced by the beats of Aphex Twin, Armand van Helden and a cast of the greatest DJ talent playing to a 5,000-strong audience. 

But every party has to come to an end, and after the final ravers emerge dazed and confused on Sunday night, British Land moves to the next stage of its ‘“once in a lifetime” regeneration project which includes 3,000 new homes and space for 20,000 workers. In a last hurrah, Printworks was recently ranked second best nightclub in the world. Manchester’s Warehouse Project has the top spot.


Culture

Make way for the mothership(s)

By Stephen Armstrong

Citadel is the perfect mash up of the finest spy franchises of the past 15 years: Mr and Mrs Smith, Bourne, Memento, Kingsman, even – crucially – with touches of Bond. Richard Madden plays humdrum mid-life Mason Kane who, in the middle of a bomb attack on a train, discovers deft skills and recognises Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ Nadia Sinh. Eventually they find their way to the Obi wan Gandalf Stanley Tucci character who smooths the living daylights out of the big reveal – they were spies for a multinational agency. Everyone was betrayed. They need to remember the past to save the future. Then everything explodes and they shoot an awful lot of people.

It’s elegantly executed by the Russo Brothers, known for the fiendish complexity of their Avengers movies – Infinity War still hasn’t quite settled down on the internet – and they bring that sprawling ambition to the traditional spy shoot ‘em up.

So what? There are actually four parallel series of Citadel – the so-called mothership, plus local language series produced in Italy, India and Mexico. “It’s a multi-layered global franchise with interconnected productions where every country’s series is its own series, but there are crossovers and cross-references,” Anthony Russo explains.

Say what? Depending on your generation, that’s like the Jonas Brothers showing up in Mylie Cyrus or the Trumpton Fire engine heading into Camberwick Green. 

That doesn’t sound cheap. The mothership alone is the second most expensive TV show ever made after The Rings of Power (also Amazon). Production rewrites, reshoots and re-hirings pushed the series budget up to $300 million, in other words $50 million per episode.

Which Amazon loves. James Farrell, Amazon’s VP, International, says it is “highly likely” his non-US team will seek more Citadel-like universes – “it’s such a cool way to take subscribers on a journey and no one has really done it before.” Given that Amazon paid $8.6 billion for MGM which basically has a library and Bond, and given that Daniel Craig killed James Bond, they’ve got to be eyeing that little franchise – the Moneypenny Diaries, anyone?

But that really doesn’t sound cheap. “You can’t compare Prime with Netflix or Disney,” says Tom Harrington at Enders Analysis, pointing out that while Netflix wants to be more like TV, Amazon wants to be more like an inflight entertainment package. “Amazon is determined to be the leading video marketplace where they charge everyone else to house their apps or sell channels like Lionsgate via Prime Video. To do that, Prime Video content needs to attract people to the platform and be competitive, but not overwhelm the other services that Amazon charges rent to.”

The result. Think of Amazon Prime as a global platform encouraging people to come shop there using Richard Madden’s exploding train to grab their attention. Madden’s very good. You’ll probably stay at least to the end of the first season. Then buy the soundtrack. And the merch. And did we see you looking for a new pair of trousers?

Citadel is on Amazon Prime Video from 28 April


The Ribs

(Reviews in brief)

Watch

Little Richard: I Am Everything (Dogwoof; released today in selected cinemas)
A superbly edited compilation that tells a whole new story, charting the significance of queer musicians and drag subcultures at the founding moments of rock ‘n roll. Raised in the church and trained by drag artiste Esquerita, Little Richard was guided by Dorothy LaBostrie to change his gay cruising track “Tutti Frutti, good booty. If it don’t fit, don’t force it. You can grease it, make it easy,” to the radio-friendly inception of “Tutti Frutti, aw rooty Tutti Frutti, aw rooty.” The closing montage of tributes from The Beatles, Prince, Lizzo, Lady Gaga and Harry Styles underline how much he lost. “People are still driving on my highway,” Richard says, “and they ain’t payin’ no toll.”


Read

August Blue by Deborah Levy (Penguin, 4 May)
Elsa M. Anderson – orphan turned child-prodigy, turned blue-haired concert-pianist – is skipping between European capitals, running from the aftershocks of a dramatic burn-out, teaching the damaged children of the over-privileged and flirting with the mysterious double who tails her.

Set against the final throes of the pandemic, Elsa’s unspooling identity mirrors a global nervous breakdown as marching lines of ants invade urbane Paris and London. Un-anchored from jobs, characters eat, dress and screw to hold down their disintegrating senses of self.

Levy’s crisp language is deceptive. Commonplace objects – a dry-cleaning ticket, a tatty market stall toy – recur like mythic motifs. The novel resembles musical composition more than conventional narrative, working the senses as much as the mind. Even when your understanding only skims the surface, your feelings are perplexingly, profoundly altered.


Listen

That! Feels Good! Jessie Ware (PMR records, out now)
Making a truly listenable and exciting dance hall record is hard work. Beneath the sequins, the smiles and heart-beat timed thumping, exists a razor-thin line. Veer to one side and it’s overwhelming and ear-splitting, veer to the other and, well, your listeners stay in their seats, bored. That! Feels Good! walks the line perfectly. Jessie Ware has finally learned how to lean into her full-body sound, creating through a mixture of cowbells, funk lines and up-their-octave hitting vocals shimmering, glitzy songs with huge danceability. Pay attention to the lyrics too. Beneath their simplicity Ware gives an answer to the main question connecting most of her work – why is it so important to care about feeling good?

Londongrad: Iran’s hit squads
Tortoise’s award-winning reporter Paul Caruana-Galizia is back to tell the story of Londongrad – his groundbreaking investigation into Russian money in the capital. In series two, Paul follows a new threat on British soil: Iranian assassination attempts in London; particularly against prominent journalists at Persian news outlets who based themselves in the UK to be safe from the Iranian state. Or so they thought. The threat to their lives has increased significantly as they continue to report on the protests following the murder of Mahsa Amini by Iranian morality police last summer. It is too easy to dismiss the democratic crisis wracking Iran as existing far, far away from home. Paul’s reporting exposes how wrong we can be.

Episodes one and two are available on Tuesday 2 May for Tortoise members and for subscribers to Tortoise Plus on Apple Podcasts.


Book now

When Winston went to War with the Wireless (2 June – 29 July, Donmar Warehouse)
When Winston went to War with the Wireless, written by Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials, Enola Holmes), will have its world premiere at the Donmar Warehouse this June. Set in May 1926 during The General Strike, when workers across the UK downed their tools and the printing presses shut down, the production will tell the story of a battle for control of the news. Olivier-award winner Adrian Scarborough is set to play the titular Winston Churchill, joined by Stephen Campbell Moore as BBC head John Reith and Haydn Gwynne as Primer Minister Stanley Baldwin. Previews begin 2 June and tickets are available now.


Playlist

This week: So long, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson


poet for our times

An ode to Sudan
Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi was born in 1969 and grew up in Khartoum. From 2006, he was the cultural editor of the Al-Sudani newspaper, until he lost his position in July 2012 during the uprising against the dictatorship of Omar Al-Bashir. He was in the UK when a series of mass arrests took place, applied for asylum and has lived in London for over a decade.

Exile is a void – I remember its ecstasy when I make my home

Or when the only thing to make its home is the taste of remembrance
I remember the names of those who departed, one by one

I was one of them
I remember the names of those who were buried
I remember your name or the names of those yet to be born

This was exile
With its countless nights

A Friends’ Kitchen by Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi, translated by Bryar Bajalan and Shook, is published on 15 June as a dual-language edition (Arabic/English), Poetry Translation Centre.

At a Tortoise Pace returns next week


for your diary

6 MayIndus, an Indian restaurant with pan-asian dishes and helmed by celebrated chef Manish Patel, opens at Park Regis Birmingham

13 May – Everyman Cinemas hosts a Eurovision watch party at venues across the UK, with tickets including drinks, snacks and scorecards

25 MayThe Photography Centre opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum, housing a selection of the museum’s 800,000 photographs in previously unseen backrooms

28 May – Jazz, funk and soul music festival Cross The Tracks comes to Brockwell Park, London, with a lineup featuring Kelis, Ezra Collective and NxWorries

16 June – Mcfly kick off their recently announced 32-date UK tour in Wolverhampton. Tickets on sale from 5 May


Editor: Jane Bruton 

Contributions from Mark St Andrew, Tomini Babs, Andrew Butler, Sophie Fenton, Dolly Martin, Catherine Neilan, Steph Preston and Sara Weissel.

Photographs courtesy Getty Images, Amazon Prime, Donmar Warehouse, Al Saddiq Al Raddi, Magnolia Pictures, C Faruolo/Printworks