Ponant Yacht Cruises & Expeditions will soon have a new luxury owner.

French billionaire Francois Pinault’s holding company, Groupe Artemis, is in the process of buying the luxury cruise line from private equity firm Bridgepoint.

“Paperwork has been signed,” a company spokesperson told Cruise Passenger. “And now it’s just a matter of finalising the due diligence.”

Groupe Artemis also owns auction house Christie’s and controls the company behind such fashion brands as Gucci and Saint-Laurent, which makes it the perfect match for one of the cruise industry’s finest fleet of vessels.

“Ponant fits really nicely with these brands,” said the spokesperson.

In a statement, Groupe Artemis said it would help accelerate Ponant’s development amid increased interest from Australasian and North American passengers in luxury cruises.

A spokesperson went on to say it’s “far too early to tell” whether the change of ownership will lead to more ships visiting Australia and Asia, but they did reveal “it’s a natural area for us to increase our voyages to anyway”, considering the region’s appreciation for luxury travel.

“The Sydney office now produces something like 20 per cent of Ponant’s passengers,” they said.

Francois’ daughter-in-law is Salma Hayek, an actress whose star status could help bring the often ignored luxurious side of cruising to the fore. Perhaps she will be named godmother of a future ship – but only time will tell.

There is no mention of how much Ponant sold for, and, looking at the mystery surrounding the company’s change of ownership in the past, it’s highly unlikely a figure will be revealed.

One thing is for sure, though – once this deal is finalised, Francois Pinault will take the title of the richest person in the cruise world.