LONDON — Pierre Godé, the éminence grise of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and a talented French lawyer whose steely negotiation skills and strategic vision were considered integral to the world’s largest luxury group, has died after a long and unspecified illness, a statement from the group confirmed on Friday. He was 73.
Polished, charming and deliberately low profile, Mr. Godé was for 30 years rarely far from the side of Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chairman and chief executive. The two men set about building a brand portfolio that today includes more than 70 fashion houses, among them Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Bulgari. Mr. Godé and Mr. Arnault met in 1973, when Mr. Godé was the youngest-qualified law professor in France and an attorney to Mr. Arnault’s father, Jean, the head of a property company.
“I was struck by his talent from our first meeting,” Bernard Arnault, France’s richest man, said in 2000. “He is my closest colleague as well as a confidant and friend without equal.”
Mr. Godé officially joined Mr. Arnault’s company in 1985, having assisted in a 1984 bid for Boussac, a bankrupt textile company that counted the Christian Dior fashion house among its assets.
A loyal second-in-command and adviser trusted like no other — LVMH has become infamous for the fast-moving revolving doors at its many fashion houses — Mr. Godé later led the charge in some of the group’s most high-profile, high-risk business dealings. Among them were a two-year battle for control of LVMH with the Racamier family in the 1980s, which it won, and an attempted takeover of Gucci in 1999, a rare defeat.
He had the official title of LVMH vice chairman, but held an unofficial remit and reach that stretched much further. As LVMH entered the digital age, Mr. Godé masterminded an aggressively protectionist strategy, suing the search giant Google and the online marketplace eBay for not doing enough to stop the sale of counterfeit goods. As part of that effort, he assembled a modern arsenal of diplomacy and lawsuits in a bid to enforce the same guidelines in the virtual world as in the real one.
“We have invested so much money to enhance and protect our brands and our brand experience that it is impossible to accept a scenario where someone else who has no understanding of this or interest in it would sell our brands and destroy that value,” Mr. Godé said in an interview in 2010.
In 2013, following LVMH’s stealthy effort to build up a stake in the family-owned leather goods house Hermès that later turned into a bitter public battle, Mr. Godé became deputy chairman of LVMH’s Italian operations and stepped down as chief executive of Mr. Arnault’s investment companies, Groupe Arnault and Financière Agache.
Mr. Godé retired from day-to-day duties at LVMH at the end of 2015, but he remained on the boards of LVMH, Dior, and the global communications company Havas. He was also a member of the French Competition Authority and an officer of the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor.
He died in the southern French city of Nice, according to a company spokesman. He is survived by his wife and three children.
“Alongside my father, Jean Arnault, and then alongside me, Pierre Godé was instrumental in the creation and growth of the LVMH Group,” Mr. Arnault said in a statement. “His lively intelligence and sound judgment will be missed by all who came to know and appreciate him.”