The fortune of Bernard Arnault, the world’s richest person, has topped $200bn for the first time as shares in his French LVMH luxury goods empire hit a record high.
The 74-year-old has become only the third person in history to amass an estimated fortune above the $200bn (£160bn) threshold. Tesla’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos have previously hit the milestone before their fortunes dropped back as technology companies’ share prices fell.
Arnault’s fortune increased by $2.4bn on Tuesday to $201bn, according to the daily-updated Bloomberg billionaires index. His wealth has increased by $39bn so far this year as shares in LVMH have risen 30%, thanks to soaring demand for luxury goods among the world’s wealthy.
The French billionaire is $25bn richer than Musk, whose fortune has been knocked by his $44bn purchase of Twitter and a 50% fall in the value of the electric car company Tesla over the past year. Musk is Tesla’s co-founder, chief executive and 13% shareholder.
Bezos, who was the first person to hit the $200bn milestone in August 2020, is the world’s third-richest person, with a $128bn fortune.
Arnault is the chairman and chief executive of LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Moët & Chandon champagne. Its shares have shot up by more than 150% in the past three years, hitting a new high of €853 on Wednesday morning.
LVMH last year achieved record sales of €79.2bn and has begun a €1.5bn share buyback programme, which has helped further lift the share price.
Arnault, who co-founded the luxury goods group 35 years ago and is its majority shareholder, recently appointed his children to key roles within the business. In January, his eldest child, Delphine, was named the head of Christian Dior, the second-biggest brand in the empire. Her brother Antoine was promoted to run the holding company that controls LVMH and the Arnault family fortune.
His three younger children also have important jobs within the world’s largest luxury goods company, which includes brands such as Stella McCartney, TAG Heuer, Bulgari and Tiffany. Alexandre Arnault is an executive at Tiffany, Frédéric Arnault is the chief executive of TAG Heuer, while their youngest sibling, Jean Arnault, heads marketing and product development for Louis Vuitton’s watches division.
LVMH’s record stock price follows its announcement last month that it would buy back as much as €1.5bn (£1.3bn) of its own shares. The company posted a record €79.2bn in sales last year, with revenue surpassing €20bn at its cash cow, Louis Vuitton, which named the musician turned entrepreneur Pharrell Williams as its new menswear designer in February.