Business / Billionaires

Bernard Arnault Was Briefly the World’s Richest Person

The French fashion tycoon’s net worth exceeded Amazon’s Jeff Bezos for a short period of time on Monday morning before Bezos eventually reclaimed the top spot later in the day.

May 25, 2021 | By Abram Yum
Image Credit: Courtesy of Reuters

In the early hours of Monday morning, Chairman and CEO of luxury conglomerate LVMH, Bernard Arnault’s net worth rose to US$186.3 billion, surpassing Jeff Bezos’ worth at the time by US$300 million, according to Forbes’ real-time billionaire tracker. This made Arnault the world’s richest person for a few hours before Bezos eventually reclaimed his title after the markets opened in New York, pushing up Amazon’s shares.

While Bernard Arnault and family may not be at the top of the list, the drastic increase in their fortune since March last year has been nothing short of astounding. LVMH’s incredible performance despite the Covid-19 pandemic in the last 14 months played a key role in advancing Arnault’s fortune which rose from US$76 billion in March 2020 to US$186.3 billion on Monday morning.

LVMH is a luxury conglomerate overseeing 75 global luxury brands specialising in a number of different fields including, couture fashion, fine leather goods and alcohols. Some of the most recognised brands under the LVMH umbrella are Louis Vuitton, Moët, Hennessy, Celine, and Dior. In the 1980s, Arnault acquired a controlling stake of the company in one of the fiercest sagas in the history of fashion, earning him the nickname “the wolf in cashmere”. Thereafter he set about expanding the LVMH umbrella, bringing in the world’s top brands and enhancing the conglomerate’s portfolio. In January 2021, LVMH made a significant luxury fashion business deal when it acquired the largest jewellery maker in the US, Tiffany & Co., for US$15.8 million. Needless to say, he was instrumental in building LVMH into what it is today.

Image Credit: Courtesy of LVMH

In the current climate of lockdowns which saw the closure of many retail and manufacturing locations, LVMH’s sales continued to defiantly rise in the past several months. Fuelled by an increase in consumption in China and the US, LVMH’s stock prices, and by extension, Arnault’s net worth, soared. By November 2020, he had taken over Bill Gates as the second richest person in the world and was gaining ground on Bezos. According to a company annual report, Arnault and his family owned 47.5% of LVMH’s shares at the time, but this continued to increase as Arnault spent around US$538 million buying up stocks in recent months, increasing their ownership and net worth.

In the first quarter of 2021, LVMH recorded a revenue of US$17 billion, an increase of 32% from the first quarter in 2020, further driving the net worth of Arnault and his family.

The Arnault Family; Image Credit: Courtesy of LVMH Facebook

At the time of writing, Jeff Bezos has reclaimed his throne at the top of Forbes’ list of billionaires with a net worth of US$188.2 billion with Bernard Arnault and family close behind with a marginally lower net worth of US$187.3 billion. Only time will tell if Arnault will overtake Bezos permanently in future.

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