How Rich Is Bernard Arnault, The Wealthiest Man in the World?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Lafargue Raphael/ABACA/Shutterstock (13050148ad)French luxury group LVMH Chairman and Chief Executive Bernard Arnault attends an LVMH event at the Vivatech technology startups and innovation fair in Paris on May 16, 2022.
Lafargue Raphael/ABACA/Shutterstock / Lafargue Raphael/ABACA/Shutterstock

Move over, Elon Musk. According to Forbes’ Real Time Billionaire’s List, LVMH Group (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault has surpassed Musk in net worth with a reported fortune of $190.9 billion.

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Musk has held the “world’s richest” title since Sept. 2021, when the Tesla and SpaceX CEO passed Amazon chairman and founder Jeff Bezos (No. 4 in the world today at $116.2 billion net worth). Musk’s net worth stands at $175.6 billion, per Forbes.

At 73, Arnault is the first person from France (or more broadly, Europe) to have the largest net worth in the world, according to Bloomberg. The LVMH luxury conglomerate commands a staggering number of prestigious brands under six umbrella company branches: premium wines and spirits, fashion and leather goods, perfumes and cosmetics, watches and jewelry, selective retailing and culture and lifestyle.

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Net Worth: $190.9 Billion

Although Arnault and Musk appear to have been running neck and neck in the personal fortune stakes this month, as of midday on Dec. 14, Forbes listed Arnault as the richest person in the world, holding a personal fortune of $190.9 billion.  

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index uses a different methodology than Forbes’ List, but has Arnault sitting atop its daily ranking of the world’s richest people for Dec. 13. With a total net worth of $171 billion and a year-to-date (YTD) change of -$7.19 billion, Arnaud tops Musk’s $164 billion and substantial YTD change of -$107 billion, by far the biggest decrease among the top 500 richest people in the world.

Aside from his LVMH interests, Arnault invests in web companies, yachts and real estate around the world. Although he resides in Paris, he owns a luxury villa in Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera as well as a private island in the Bahamas. Further, he has spent at least $96.4 million on residential properties in the Trousdale Estates neighborhood in Beverly Hills and L.A.’s Hollywood Hills, according to Business Insider.  

Arnault has established LVMH as a patron of the arts and was instrumental in creating the Louis Vuitton Foundation, a center for contemporary art designed by esteemed architect Frank Gehry. As Business Insider reports, Arnault is well known for his impressive art collection as well, which includes pieces by Picasso, Yves Klein, Henry Moore and Andy Warhol.

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Early Life

Bernard Jean Etienne Arnault was born in Roubaix, France, on March 5, 1949, to Marie Josèphe Savinel and Jean Léon Arnault. His father was a manufacturer and the owner of the civil engineering company, Ferret-Savinel.

According to France 24, Arnault joined his father’s engineering firm after graduating from the distinguished École Polytechnique in 1971 and proved his corporate intuition early on, convincing his father to sell the construction side of his business in 1976 to build Ferinel, a holiday accommodation company.

Business Career

After moving into property development — and to the United States — in 1981, Arnault’s first huge business move came in 1984, when he returned to France and took over the failing textile enterprise Boussac Saint-Frères, which owned a number of companies, including the Christian Dior fashion house.

Looking to create a conglomerate of luxury brands, Arnault sold off most of Boussac Saint-Frères’ companies (except for Dior and Le Bon Marché department store) and started to invest his dividends in buying LVMH, a conglomerate that merged Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy in 1987.

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From then Arnault has been amassing brands and expanding stores and interests worldwide. LVMH is the world’s leading luxury goods group, holding an astonishing number of prestige brands, including Dom Pérignon and Veuve Clicquot champagnes, Ardbeg and Glenmorangie single malt whiskeys, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Fendi, Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney fashions houses, Fenty Beauty, Make Up For Ever and Sephora cosmetics, Bvlgari and Hublot watches plus many other selective retailing companies and activities, like newspapers and radio stations.

Bloomberg estimates that the majority of Arnault’s fortune comes from a 97.5% stake in Christian Dior, which, in turn, controls about 41% of LVMH. The Arnault family holds around 6% of additional LVMH shares. Additionally, based on an analysis that includes dividends, taxes and charitable contributions, Arnault has an estimated $10.3 billion in cash and other assets, per Bloomberg.

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Personal Life

Arnault has five children — two with first wife Anne Dewavrin and three with current wife, the Canadian concert pianist Hélène Mercier. According to The New York Times, four of his children and a niece play prominent roles in the LVMH empire.

As Forbes noted, every Saturday, he visits up to 25 of his and his competitors’ stores, keeping in touch with the latest industry developments.

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About the Author

David Nadelle is a freelance editor and writer based in Ottawa, Canada. After working in the energy industry for 18 years, he decided to change careers in 2016 and concentrate full-time on all aspects of writing. He recently completed a technical communication diploma and holds previous university degrees in journalism, sociology and criminology. David has covered a wide variety of financial and lifestyle topics for numerous publications and has experience copywriting for the retail industry.
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