Who is Bernard Arnault, the Frenchman who displaced Elon Musk as the new richest man in the world

bernard arnault
bernard arnault

The owner of Twitter and CEO of Tesla, Elon Muskwas displaced as the richest person in the world in the ranking of main fortunes prepared by the magazine Forbes. The top spot has changed hands since then, after rises and falls in the electric carmaker’s stock caused the net worth attached to Musk’s fortune to fluctuate. But given the costs of the social network purchase and the impact on Tesla’s value of market conditions and the ever-controversial high profile of the billionaire.

But the rises and falls in the value of Musk’s fortune brought the spotlight to another billionaire who isn’t as high profile, at least not as the Tesla CEO. It was not jeff kisses, CEO and founder of Amazon, the one who surpassed Musk among the richest. Nor the mythical investor Warren Buffett, nor the creator of Microsoft Bill Gates. The new richest man in the world is named bernard arnault and is the president and CEO of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

arnault now tops the magazine’s online ranking of billionaires, with a personal wealth of 176.6 billion dollars. Muskwho has held the top spot on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest since September 2021, has a net worth of $146.5 billion.

In the rest of the top-10meet the Indian businessman Gautam Adani (121,400 million); the founder of amazon Jeff Bezos (108,500 million); the investor Warren Buffett (106.300 million); the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates (103,200 million); the founder of Oracle, Larry Ellison (101,400 million); the indian businessman Mukesh Ambani (88.700 million); the Mexican telecommunications magnate, Carlos Slim (83,400 million); Y Steve Ballmerformer CEO of Microsoft and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA (78.2 billion).

Bernard Arnault oversees the LVMH empire, which has some 70 fashion and cosmetics brands, including Louis Vuitton and Sephora. In January 2021, LVMH acquired the American jeweler Tiffany & Co for USD 15.8 billion, which is considered the largest acquisition of a luxury brand in history.

LVMH shelled out $3.2 billion in 2019 for the Belmond luxury hotel group, which owns or manages 46 hotels, trains and river cruises. And yet his face is not so well known.

French President Emmanuel Macron with Bernard Arnault, CEO of the luxury group LVMH, in Paris, France, on May 24, 2018 (Reuters)
French President Emmanuel Macron with Bernard Arnault, CEO of the luxury group LVMH, in Paris, France, on May 24, 2018 (Reuters)

Many call him “the silent owner of luxury”. For the discretion of his private life, but the great impact of his fashion companies throughout the planet. Forbes estimates his fortune today at $191.3 billion, just above Musk’s $180.7 billion.

He was born on March 5, 1949 in Roubaix, in northern France. His parents, Marie-Josèphe Savinel and Jean Léon Arnault, owned a public works company, Ferret-Savinel. After finishing her Polytechnic Engineering studies, and already working in the family business, she convinced his parents to sell the business for 40 million francs in 1971, redirecting his activities towards real estate development.

In 1973 he married his first wife, Anne Dewavrin. With her he had two children, Delphine and Antoine. The family would live their first years in France, although they decided to move to the United States in 1981., after the electoral victory of the center-left François Mitterrand.

Virtually no blush in the world of luxury is foreign to LVMH, in this case, watches (Reuters)
Virtually no blush in the world of luxury is foreign to LVMH, in this case, watches (Reuters)

Arnault began his path to mega-riches by putting USD 15 million from his father’s business to buy Christian Dior in 1985. The myth says that already in the United States, a taxi driver could not answer him who was the president of France but, by way of consolation He said he did know who Christian Dior was. From there, supposedly, came the inspiration for the change of course.

Now, almost no item related to luxury is not alien. His company controls, in addition to the brands already mentioned, Kenzo, Bulgari, Tiffany, Givenchy, Moët & Chandon, Hennessy, Dom Pérignon, the mythical Cipriani hotel in Venice and the Orient Express train.

LVMH bought Tiffany & Co. last year (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo)
LVMH bought Tiffany & Co. last year (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo)

In 1990 he separated, but his bachelorhood would not last long. In 1991 he married the pianist Helene Mercier-Arnault. Together three children: Alexandre, Frédéric and Jean. Today, four of Arnault’s five children work in corners of the LVMH empire: Frédéric, Delphine, Antoine and Alexandre.

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