Bernard Arnault has just become the richest person in the world.  So who is he?  |  CNN Business

Bernard Arnault has just become the richest person in the world. So who is he? | CNN Business


Bernard Arnault, the chairman of French luxury giant LVMH (LVMHF), has just become the first European to top Bloomberg’s list of the world’s richest people, relegating Elon Musk to the second place.

Worth $171 billion, Arnault’s fortune eclipsed the Tesla CEO’s $164 billion fortune on Tuesday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Arnault had already ousted Musk from the top spot on Forbes’ list of “real-time billionaires” last week.

Musk’s net worth has fallen by $107 billion this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Arnault’s wealth, which stems from his majority stake in LVMH, suffered a more modest drop of $7 billion.

The divergence is partly due to the stock performance of the companies in which the pair holds shares. Musk’s purchase of Twitter (TWTR) didn’t help either. Still, he’s not in imminent danger of falling further down the list: his fortune remains comfortably larger than that of Indian industrialist Gautam Adani ($125 billion) and Amazon (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos ($116 billion), which rank third and fourth on Bloomberg’s list.

While Tesla (TSLA) stock price has fallen 54% this year, LVMH stock has held steady, supported by robust sales in the US and Europe. The luxury market has remained relatively stable this year, although soaring inflation has led less affluent buyers to change their consumption habits. LVMH has a market value of 362.4 billion euros ($386 billion).

Born in Roubaix in northern France in 1949, Arnault graduated from the prestigious École Polytechnique, an engineering school in Paris. He began his career in the family business of BTP Ferret-Savinel, of which he became president in 1978 after successive promotions.

Six years later, he got wind that the French government was looking for a new investor to take over Boussac Saint-Frères. The bankrupt textile group owned a key asset: Christian Dior, a famous French fashion house.

Arnault takes control of the group, brings it back to profitability and commits to a development strategy for the world leader in luxury. “In the process, he reinvigorated Christian Dior as a cornerstone of the new organization,” according to a biography on the LVMH website.

Arnault took a majority stake in LVMH in 1989, two years after the group was formed by the merger of Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy. He has since been Chairman and CEO of the company.

Although his own name may not be immediately recognizable to many, the brands Arnault helped develop – from Christian Dior to Dom Pérignon – have become household names.

Over the past three decades, Arnault has built LVMH into a luxury powerhouse with 75 labels selling wine, spirits, fashion, leather goods, perfumes, cosmetics, watches, jewelry, luxury travel and hotel stays. He opened China’s first Louis Vuitton store in Beijing in 1992.

In January 2021, the group finalized its acquisition for 15.8 billion dollars of the emblematic American jeweler Tiffany & Co, the largest acquisition ever made in the luxury industry.

Arnault’s philanthropic actions continue mainly through LVMH, which focuses its patronage on arts and culture. In 2019, the group donated 200 million euros ($212 million) to help rebuild Notre Dame after a massive fire tore through the Paris cathedral.

Arnault has long held the title of Europe’s richest person, but the 73-year-old maintains a much lower profile than Musk and is not personally active on any of the major social media platforms. In October, he told LVMH-owned Radio Classique that he had sold his private jet because he had been shamed on Twitter for his frequent use of the plane.

Arnault is married and has five children, all of whom currently work at LVMH or one of its brands, according to Bloomberg.

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