Who Is Bernard Arnault, the Richest Person in the World?

Bernard Arnault is the CEO and Chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Since the fourth of August, he has been the richest person in the world. According to Forbes, as of the fifth of August, Arnault has a net wealth of 198.4 billion USD, beating previous first place, Jeff Bezos, by 4.6 billion USD. 

Since the inception of the Forbes list of billionaires and billionaire wealth tracking, Americans have dominated being the richest person in the world. Mexican magnate Carlos Slim is the only non-American to top the list in the past decade continuously. Arnault’s has risen to the top spot very quickly. Since March 2020, his wealth has jumped by 110 billion USD from 76 billion USD. This wealth increase is due to an unexpected surge in luxury goods sales from LVMH companies during the pandemic, especially in China. 

Arnault was born on the fifth of March 1949 in Roubaix, France. In 1971, he graduated from France’s most prestigious engineering university, Ecole Polytechnique. After graduating, he started his career at his father’s company, Ferret-Sauvinel, eventually becoming chairman in 1978. In 1984 he became the CEO of luxury goods retailer Finciniere Agache; that same year, he took over Boussac Saint-Freres, which owned Christian Dior. Arnault was tasked with reforming the Boussac Saint-Freres, and through many drastic measures by 1987, Arnault managed to turn the company around to profit again. 

Throughout 1988-1989, Arnault gradually acquired shares of LVMH, eventually having enough shares to reach a blocking minority. Tensions rose in the board of LVMH as Arnault had a drastically different strategic vision for the company than the Louis Vuitton president Henry Racamier. Resulting in Arnault using his blocking minority to strip Racamier of his power, and on the thirteenth of January 1989, Arnault became the Chairperson and CEO of LMVH. 

LVMH is a multinational holding conglomerate that specializes in luxury goods. It boasts many prestigious brands such as; fashion brands Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Fendi and Marc Jacobs; wine and spirits brands Moet & Chandon, Hennessy and the 400-year-old Chateau d’Yquem; luxury accessories and jewellery brands, Bulgari, Hublot and Tiffany & Co, as well as multiple yacht brands and makeup giant Sephora. LVMH is the most valuable company in Europe. 

Arnault is the president of Groupe Arnault S.E or Arnault Family Group, which is his family holding company. The Arnault Family Group is the only major shareholder of LVMH, controlling 46.84% of LVMH’s stock and 63.13% of its voting rights. Four of his five children work in LVMH.

Arnault has received many honours, including the Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur, Grand Officier de la Legion d’Honneur and is an Honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. 

Bernard Arnault has made many strategic decisions that have led to him acquiring his wealth. Only time will tell if he can fend off Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to keep the position of the richest person in the world.