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Weakened at Bernie’s

bernard arnault michael burke
There’s little doubt that Burke was foundational in the creation of the LVMH mythology during the past 40 years, typically by making Arnault appear as cunning and brilliant as his carefully groomed wolf-in-cashmere persona required. Photo: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Lauren Sherman
May 23, 2024

A friend of Michael Burke wrote to me the other day to express his disagreement with my characterization of the longtime LVMH executive, who recently stepped back as C.E.O. of the conglomerate’s fashion group. In my previous piece, I’d referred to Burke as “occasionally cruel”—a description that emerged from conversations with multiple current and former employees and peers. Sure, Burke is tough, this person said. But cruel? This person suggested I was being fed a millennial’s interpretation of a management style from another generation.

Cruel or tough, there’s little doubt that Burke was foundational in the creation of the LVMH mythology during the past 40 years, typically by making his boss, mastermind Bernard Arnault, appear as cunning and brilliant as his carefully groomed wolf-in-cashmere persona required. Sales at Louis Vuitton, which Burke ran for more than a decade, were more than €20 billion by the time he left the role in 2023. That’s remarkable, considering that LVMH’s overall revenue was just €28 billion a decade earlier, in 2012, when he took over LV.