Bernard Arnault has toppled Elon Musk as the richest billionaire. He is $25bn richer than Musk, whose fortune has been knocked by his $44bn purchase of Twitter and a 50% fall in the value of the electric car company Tesla over the past year.
While Musk, Tesla’s co-founder, chief executive and 13% shareholder saw a decline in his wealth, Arnault’s fortune increased by $2.4bn on Tuesday to $201bn largely on the back of soaring demand for luxury goods among the world’s wealthy that saw his wealth increased by $39bn this year.
Arnault is the chairman and CEO of LVMH, the company that owns Moët & Chandon champagne, Christian Dior, and Louis Vuitton. In the last three years, its share price has increased by more than 150%.
The Billionaires Club of 3
As things stand, the 74-year-old has become only the third person in history to amass an estimated fortune above the $200bn threshold with only Tesla’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos being the others who reached the milestone.
Shares in LVMH have risen 30%, with the overseas LVMH Empire of 75 fashion and cosmetics brands, including Louis Vuitton and Sephora doing well.
LVMH last year achieved record sales of €79.2bn with revenue surpassing €20bn and has begun a €1.5bn share buyback programme, which has helped further lift the share price. Louis Vuitton also named the musician turned entrepreneur Pharrell Williams as its new menswear designer in February.
As the largest luxury brand acquisition in history, Tiffany & Co. was purchased by LVMH in January 2021 for $15.8 billion.
Arnault’s holding company Agache backs venture capital firm Aglaé Ventures, which has investments in companies such as TikTok parent ByteDance and Netflix.
Bernard Arnault Wife and Children
Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault got his start from a father who made a small fortune in construction. He then put up $15 million from that business to buy Christian Dior in 1985.
Arnault’s five children all work at LVMH; in July 2022, he proposed a reorganization of his holding company Agache to give them equal stakes
Arnault allegedly played Chopin and other classical composers on the piano to woo his wife, concert pianist Helene Mercier.
40% of L Catterton, a private equity group with $30 billion in assets that includes holdings in Equinox and Birkenstock, is owned by Arnault and LVMH.
The Ecole Polytechnique de Paris product who holds a Bachelor of Arts/Science, co-founded the luxury goods group 35 years ago and is its majority shareholder, recently appointed his children to key roles within the business. In January, his eldest child, Delphine, was named the head of Christian Dior, the second-biggest brand in the empire. Her brother Antoine was promoted to run the holding company that controls LVMH and the Arnault family fortune.
The largest luxury goods corporation in the world, which boasts names like Tiffany, Bulgari, TAG Heuer, and Stella McCartney, also employs three of his younger children in crucial positions. Frédéric Arnault is the CEO of TAG Heuer, Alexandre Arnault is an executive at Tiffany, and Jean Arnault, the youngest of the Arnault siblings, is in charge of marketing and product development for Louis Vuitton’s watch section.
Bernard Arnault Early Life
Mr. Arnault, who was born on March 5, 1949, into an industrial family in Roubaix, France, attended both the Roubaix and the Faidherbe lycées. Later, he continued his education at the Ecole polytechnique.
With the Ferret-Savinel construction company, Bernard Arnault started his professional career as an engineer. He then advanced to a number of executive management posts before being named chairman in 1978.
Up until 1984, when he started the Financière Agache holding company’s reorganization, Mr. Arnault stayed there. He started a strategy to become the top luxury products firm in the world as he brought the group back to profitability. In the process, he gave Christian Dior fresh life as the foundation of the new company.
In 1989, Mr. Arnault acquired a majority stake in LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton, forming the largest luxury goods conglomerate in the world. Since that time, Mr. Arnault has served as the company’s chairman and CEO.
Mr. Arnault is also President of the Board of Directors of Groupe Arnault S.E. (his family holding company).
He has been awarded the honorary titles of Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres.