Who’s the richest of them all? Bernard Arnault of LVMH extends lead with USD210 billion fortune

Bernard Arnault, the French emperor of luxury goods, the man behind the conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), got richer by USD12 billion yesterday, which takes his net worth to USD210 billion. That leaves the second richest person, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, far behind, even though the runner-up, too, gained USD3.8 billion and became worth USD180 billion. The figures have been published by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Bernard Arnault, Chairman and CEO, LVMH, at an event on startups in May 2019. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@LVMH

Arnault got richer as LVMH stock rose 5.7 per cent on the back of strong quarterly sales figures published by the company. A company press release headlined ‘Excellent start to the year for LVMH’ said on April 12: “LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s leading high-quality products group, recorded revenue of 21 billion euros in the first quarter of 2023, up 17 per cent compared to the same period of 2022. Organic revenue growth was 17 per cent. LVMH had an excellent start to the year, within a geopolitical and economic environment which remains uncertain.”

There were some sour comments on Twitter in reaction to the LVMH press release — the French people are protesting against a government move to raise the retirement age, effectively making everyone work a little longer before getting retirement benefits. Indeed, it was reported on Thursday that some of the French protesters barged into LV stores and also attacked luxury cars.

“I think people noticed, pay some taxes maybe,” said @xnotobeard, reacting to the LVMH tweet about its high revenue.

Another user, @NicolasBayle31, tweeted: “When the poors and states get poorer, LVMH gets richer and happier (sic).”

The family of Arnault, who keeps a low profile, owns 48 per cent of LVMH share capital. He is one of the only three people in the world to see their net worth exceed USD200 billion at any point — the others are Elon Musk of Tesla and Jeff Bezos of Amazon Inc. However, both have now dropped below the 200-billion mark, leaving Arnault alone at the top.

The LVMH stable spans a range of luxury goods, from high fashion to the best champagne. As to which markets contributed to this “excellent start”, the LMVH press release said: “Europe and Japan, which enjoyed strong growth momentum, benefited from robust demand from local customers and international travellers; the United States, a market which continues to grow, had a steady performance. Asia experienced a significant rebound following the lifting of health restrictions.”