What happened when Bernard Arnault, a rigorous French businessman, took over some of the world’s most celebrated fashion, beauty and drinks companies in a bid to make them more profitable…

In 1987, the French Louis Vuitton and Moët-Hennessy companies agreed on a merger which created the biggest luxury goods company in the world. LVMH, which was to be run by Bernard Arnault, included some of France’s most prestigious luxury brands:

Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon champagnes, Hennessy cognac, Christian Dior, Givenchy and Christian Lacroix haute couture and perfume as well as Louis Vuitton bags and luggage. At the time the merger was hailed as a brilliant strategic move, which yielded an impressive profits stream.

But Arnault’s plans failed to address the fact that behind many of the brands there was a founding family whose descendants hoped to maintain some control even after their businesses had been taken over. Within weeks of the merger, bitter disputes broke out in the boardroom, the bankers’ offices, the law courts, the Bourse and the newspapers. Arnault eventually won these battles and has gone on to become one of the most successful businessmen in France. However his victory came at a price: after all the fighting, no family run business would ever sell out to him again without realizing that they were ceding control.

TASTER: FIRST CHAPTER The story starts backstage at the Hotel Intercontinental in Paris in July 1990 where Arnault’s fashion designer Christian Lacroix is to show his haute couture collection. Model Christy Turlington strips ready for action… Click here to read first chapter