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20 Things You Didn't Know about François-Henri Pinault

Francois Henri Pinault and Salma Hayek

In some circles, French billionaire businessman François-Henri Pinault is best known as the chairman and CEO of luxury brand Kering and president of Groupe Artémis. In others, he’s best known as the lucky husband of screen icon Salma Hayek, and baby daddy to Canadian supermodel Linda Evangelista. Regardless of how you know his name, know it you undoubtedly do, not least because of the multi-billionaire dollar fortune it’s attached to. Find out more about the businessman with these 20 fast facts.

1. He’s been honored with multiple awards

Pinault’s success in business hasn’t gone unrecognized. Over the years, he’s amassed a significant number of awards, accolades, and honors, starting with a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur in 2006 and ending with the title of Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year in 2018. In between, he’s received a GCC Global Leaders of Change Award (2015), an ADL (Anti-Defamation League) International Leadership Award for setting a standard in corporate responsibility and raise awareness about discrimination against women and other minorities (2015), a place in Vanity Fair Hall of Fame (2016), and a number 4 ranking in Harvard Business Review’s Best Performing CEOs in the World (2018).

2. He’s married to actress Salma Hayek

In April 2006, Pinault began dating the Mexican actress Salma Hayek. In March of the following year, speculation arose that Hayek was pregnant with the businessman’s child; a month after the rumors started, the couple became engaged, and in September that year, their daughter, Valentina, was born. The couple married in a private ceremony in the Sixth Arrondissement town hall in Paris on 14 February 2009. In April that year, they celebrated their union by renewing their wedding vows at a gathering of their family and friends.

3. He has two children with his ex-wife

While his marriage to Salma Hayek has been his most high-profile relationship, Hayek isn’t the first woman Pinault has said “I do’ too. In 1996, the businessman married his first wife, Dorothée Lepère. The couple remained together until 2004 and share two children, a son called François (born 1999) and a daughter called Mathilde (born in 2001)

4. He has a child with Linda Evangelista

In between divorcing his first wife and marrying his second, Pinault entered into a brief, but as it turned out, productive relationship with the Canadian supermodel Linda Evangelista. Despite their affair only lasting from September 2005 to January 2006, they manage to conceive a child, Augustin James Evangelista, who was born well into Pinault’s relationship with Salma Hayek in October 2006.

5. He was sued for child support

In 2011, Pinault was taken to court by his former lover, Linda Evangelista, on claims he’d failed to provide adequate support to their son. During the case, Evangelista's attorney William Beslow alleged that Pinault had not paid a single cent towards his son’s upbringing and was quick to point out the very different lifestyle Pinout’s daughter with Hayek enjoyed compared to his son with the Canadian model. In what turned out to be one of the largest settlements in history, the court ruled in Evangelista’s favor to the tune of $46,000 per month in child support.

6. He donated over 100 million euros to help rebuild the Notre Dame

In April 2019, the world-famous Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral went up in flames. By the time the fire was extinguished, the building was in all but ruins, with the majority of its roof and spire destroyed, and most of its upper walls and interior severely damaged. Along with many others, Pinault was quick to lend his support to the huge renovation project hat was put underway to restore the building to its former glory. Bernard Arnault, one of the world’s richest men and head of LVMH, donated 200 million euros, while Pinault committed to the significant sum of 100 million.

7. He thinks brands should take "bold public positions"

At the 2019 annual Women's Forum in Paris, Pinault made a decisive speech about the #MeToo movement and how big brands shouldn’t shy away from holding "bold public positions" on "very important societal topics". "Companies in the 21st century, we need to have a sense of purpose that goes much beyond our business goals as part of the strategy of the company, as part of the culture of the company," Women's Wear Daily report him as saying. "We shouldn't be afraid as companies, as leaders, to take bold public positions on certain very important societal topics."

8. He’s a staunch supporter of women’s rights

Pinault’s recent speech at the annual Women's Forum in Paris isn’t the first time the businessman has demonstrated his commitment to furthering women’s rights. In 2008, he created the Kering Foundation, an organization that seeks to defend and promote women's rights by supporting the empowerment of women through vocational training, economic self-sufficiency and social entrepreneurship, as well as tackling violence against women in all its forms, including domestic and sexual violence, Female Genital Mutilations (FGM), trafficking, forced marriages and honor killings.

9. He’s got green credentials

Women’s rights aren’t the only worthy cause Pinault has lent his voice to. The committed environmentalist has been a long-time member of Richard Branson’s The B Team, a nonprofit organization that brings together global leaders with the intention of finding ways to improve business in a way that prioritizes the wellbeing of the planet. In 2009, he financed the eco-documentary Home by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, while in 2018, his effort to make Kering environmentally friendly was recognized when the label won the title of top sustainable textile, apparel and luxury goods corporation in the Corporate Knights Global 100 index.

10. He’s the son of a billionaire

Billionaires don’t always beget billionaires, but in the Pinault family, they most certainly do. Pinault is the son of billionaire François Pinault, who built Kering (previously known as Pinault SA, later to become Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, and then PPR) up from scratch. Pinault Senior was responsible for turning the company from a small wood trading company into one of the world’s biggest luxury brands: by the time he handed the management of the company over to his son in 2003, the company had grown to the extent that Pinault, a high school drop-out raised in rural France, was a billionaire 33 times over.

11. He’s served as CEO of Kering since 2005

In 2005, Pinault took on the role of CEO of Kering, having served as vice-president of PPR and president chairman of Artemis, the holding company that controls the Pinault family assets, since 2003. Since taken the helm, Pinault has masterminded numerous changes (including rebranding the group’s name from PPR to Kering, and shifting the focus to more established brands such as Gucci and Saint Laurent, at the expense of smaller brands such as Puma Stella McCartney.) that has seen the luxury revenues of the group grow from 3 to 10 billion dollars.

12. He’s not quite as rich as his father

Pinault may have increased the revenue of Kering, but he’s still got some way to go until he catches up with his father’s huge wealth. According to The Standard, Pinault senior is currently worth a giant $35 billion, while his son is lagging behind with an estimated $25.5 billion net worth. Fortunately, the younger Pinault has his wife Salma Hayek to help prop up his wealth: according to Celebrity Net Worth, the female half of the wealthy power couple has the not insignificant sum of $115 million to her name.

13. He’s got a stake in one of the biggest art collections in the world

Together with his father, Pinault owns one of the biggest art collections in the world. In 2016, the Pinault family announced the renovation of the Bourse de Commerce building in Paris, with the intention of making the site home to part of their considerable collection. The choice of location was important to the younger Pinault, as he explained to Vogue. “Original architecture has always blended tradition and creation, and we are very sensitive to this,” he said. “We will not only be in the heart of Paris, but also in the heart of everyone who visits.”

14. He’s creating a radical vision of sustainability

In 2019, Pinault was tasked by the French president Emmanuel Macron to create a coalition of fashion companies and CEO’s committed to the idea of creating a more sustainable model for the industry. “We really need to define targets together. The first stage is to choose three or four objectives that are a top priority for the industry and commit to working towards them together to find solutions,” Pinault explained of his task to Vogue. “I’m [confident] we will reach a level that none of us individually could reach by working alone.”

15. He’s taken a stand on underage models

The fashion industry has traditionally been dominated by stick-thin, underage girls. In a bold move away from the standard, Pinault declared earlier this year that the group was committed to working only with models over 18. The implication of the move means that by 2020, every catwalk show, shoot, and campaign will exclusively feature men and women of legal age. It may sound a small move in general terms, but in the fashion world, it’s a huge step and one that Condé Nast and the CFDA have already been quick to adopt.

16. He owns a football team

In his position as head of Artemis, the holding company of the Pinault family, Pinault owns the Stade Rennais Football Club (sometimes referred to as Stade Rennais FC, Stade Rennais, Rennes or simply SRFC), a Ligue 1 club based in Rennes. The team, which is currently managed by former player Julien Stéphan, is considered one of the top clubs in the region, having won three Coupe de France titles in 1965, 1971, and 2019.

17. He owns a CRM company

During his youth, Pinault studied computer programming, and even started his own CRM startup, Soft Computing, while studying at the HEC School of Management. “I was so interested in this area of computer science that I successfully applied for an internship at Hewlett-Packard in Paris, as a database software developer,” he’s explained to Tech Crunch. “I found this period very rewarding because I had the feeling of being a pioneer. I even took part in the creation of a start-up company with some fellow students. It was about using artificial intelligence (at that time neuronal networks were used) to develop business software focused on databases, CRM and relationship marketing. The company exists to this day. It’s called Soft Computing and continues to be managed by my former schoolmate Gilles Venturi. And I’m still a member of the Board.”

18. He’s a big fan of apps

Given his love of new technology, it’s not surprising Pinault is a fan of testing new apps… neither, given his industry, is it surprising what type of gadget he prefers. “I particularly like Gucci Style, the new Gucci app for iPhone and iPad, which is a digital shopping magazine that offers editorial content, fashion stories and live feeds from Gucci’s social networks,” he’s revealed. “You can purchase Gucci products directly from the iPad and it’s in 8 different languages. It’s quite innovative and has been downloaded over 1 million times.”

19. He’s invested in a cruise ship liner

In 2016, Pinault, through the family holding company Artemis, invested in the cruise ship operator Compagnie du Ponant. While a cruise liner may not seem the most obvious choice of investment for the head of a global fashion brand, the cruise liner in question was no ordinary ship. The look and feel of the superyacht intend to bring cruising to a whole new generation, with luxurious decor, tailor-made gourmet cuisine from a team of top French chefs, and an itinerary that eschews traditional ports for the likes of glamorous Cadiz, Malaga, Motril, Altea, Palma, and Mahon.

20. He owns over 60 watches

Pinault is clearly a man who knows fashion, and we all know that as much as fashion is about the clothes, it’s also about the accessories. In that, Pinault doesn’t disappoint. According to rumors, the French billionaire loves to splash his cash on watches, and currently has over 60 luxury timepieces in his collection form the likes of Piaget and Audemars Piguet.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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