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Bernard Arnault passes Elon Musk as richest person - Biography, $207B empire & net worth

Bernard Arnault's influence stretches from luxury goods to ventures such as Netflix and Byte Dance which owns TikTok

LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault recently surpassed Elon Musk to become the wealthiest person in the world.

Bernard Arnault is chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the largest luxury products company globally.

According to Forbes, his current net worth is Sh$207.8 billion, while Elon Musk boasts $204 billion, following a recovery after his net worth shrank below $200 billion in 2023.

Born on March 5, 1949, in Roubaix, France, Arnault demonstrated an early knack for business.

He pursued engineering at the École Polytechnique, France's leading engineering school, and graduated in 1971.

His career began at his father's company, which he convinced to shift its focus to real estate.

This move marked the beginning of a series of strategic decisions that would define his career.

In 1984, seizing the opportunity to enter the luxury goods market, Arnault acquired the Financière Agache, a luxury goods company, and won the bid for Boussac Saint-Frères, a conglomerate that owned Christian Dior and other assets.

This acquisition marked his entry into the luxury goods sector.

Arnault's approach to business has been both bold and strategic. He famously bought Boussac for a nominal one franc, a decision that raised eyebrows but ultimately paid off.

He earned the nickname "The Terminator" due to his tough decisions, including laying off thousands of workers to turn the company around financially.

In 1987, Arnault played a pivotal role in the creation of LVMH. He strategically acquired shares and eventually gained control, unifying Moët Hennessy and Louis Vuitton into a single conglomerate.

Under his leadership, LVMH saw significant expansion, acquiring numerous luxury brands such as Céline, Berluti, Kenzo, and Sephora.

Arnault's leadership style is marked by a keen eye for talent and a commitment to high quality. He has been involved in various industries, including fashion, cosmetics, and wine and spirits.

His business philosophy revolves around fostering creativity, innovation, and excellence.

In 2021, LVMH's strategic acquisition of Tiffany & Co. for nearly $16 billion marked the largest luxury brand acquisition to date. This move was significant in cementing LVMH's position in the luxury goods market.

Beyond fashion and retail, Arnault's influence extends through Aglaé Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in major businesses such as Netflix and ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok.

Despite his success, Arnault's career has not been without controversy. His aggressive business tactics and layoffs have drawn criticism. However, his business savvy has led LVMH to impressive financial success, with a significant increase in sales and profits over the years.

In recent years, Arnault has focused on securing the future of LVMH by integrating his family into the business. Several of his children hold key positions within the conglomerate, ensuring a lasting legacy.

As of 2024, Bernard Arnault's net worth has reached an astonishing $207.8 billion, placing him at the pinnacle of the Forbes billionaire hierarchy.

The company's share prices surged significantly, reflecting strong sales and robust growth in various divisions, except for the Wines & Spirits unit.

This surge in LVMH's shares, particularly after releasing its fourth-quarter results, played a crucial role in Arnault's ascent in wealth rankings.

  • fashion and leather goods: 37% of revenues ;
  • selective retailing: 28% of revenues
  • wines and spirits: 16% of revenues
  • perfumes and cosmetics: 14% of revenues;
  • watches and jewelry: 5% of revenues.

Wines & Spirits

  • Dom Pérignon
  • Hennessy
  • Veuve Clicquot
  • Moët & Chandon
  • Belvedere
  • Glenmorangie

The Fashion & Leather Goods

  • Louis Vuitton
  • Christian Dior
  • Givenchy 
  • Fendi
  • Celine

The Perfumes & Cosmetics

  • Acqua di Parma
  • Fenty Beauty by Rihanna
  • Guerlain, among others

Watches & Jewelry,

  • Bulgari
  • TAG Heuer
  • Tiffany & Co.

The Selective Retailing

  •  Sephora
  • Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche

Luxury Hospitality

  • Belmond
  • Cheval Blanc

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