Dhe war between Bernard Arnault and François Pinault began on March 19, 1999. On that day, the latter took over 42 percent of the capital of Gucci, after swearing to the former the previous day that he had no interest in the Italian fashion company. Arnault, who had bought Gucci shares himself for months, saw himself snubbed twice: by Pinault’s ice-cold lie, but above all by his entry into the luxury goods industry – his very own domain. Until then, the two French had maintained business relationships that could also be played over into private life, but from then on they were best enemies.
Everyone built up a global group in the two decades that followed: Arnault, the market leader LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Dior, Céline, Fendi), Pinault, the second Kering (Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga). Each tried to compete with the other wherever possible. If one of them bought a renowned winery in Burgundy, the other bought the immediately adjacent domain. One of them promised 100 million euros for the reconstruction of Notre-Dame, the other doubled it with 200. The rivalry between the two raged (and is still raging) in the arts. But what began as a double ego trip has long since become a stimulus for the French – and international – scene.