In the past, there had only been two men in the world who had fortunes that surpassed the $100 billion mark: Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. However, yesterday a new member joined the elite group: LVMH chairman, Bernard Arnault, per Yahoo Finance. He now stands as the second-richest man in the world, just edging out Bill Gates.
The increase in net worth can be attributed to strong sales from companies in the LVHM family, which include Louis Vuitton, Dom Perignon Champagne, Christian Dior, and Tag Heuer. Sales have been particularly strong in China, where the demand for Louis Vuitton has been incredibly high.
In fact, Vuitton Chief Executive Officer Michael Burke even called the Chinese growth rates “unheard of” in a meeting with analysts in Paris, according to Bloomberg. Some analysts have claimed that part of Louis Vuitton’s growth has been due to the U.S.-China trade war. As a response, Beijing has been reducing import tariffs on many European goods — such as Louis Vuitton products.
Due to such strong sales, LVMH’s shares have risen a stunning 43 percent this year, the third-best performer on France’s CAC 40 Index. LVMH brands saw reported revenues of close to $53 billion.
This also means that Arnault’s wealth equals more than 3 percent of France’s economy, shining light on an income inequality battle that has raged throughout the country since 2018. The movement, largely called the “Yellow Vest” movement, is a populist uprising due to the high cost of living in France and the belief that tax reforms disproportionately affect those in the middle and lower class.
Arnault is not the only French billionaire to have seen in increase in fortune; in fact, France’s elite had added the most wealth to the Bloomberg rankings in Europe. Francois Pinault — husband of actress Salma Hayek — and L’Oreal heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers contributed $40 billion between the pair, and the brothers behind Chanel — Gerard and Alain Wertheimer — saw their fortunes increase by nearly $10 billion.
That said, Arnault has been active in philanthropic efforts. He helped found the Louis Vuitton Foundation, a museum and cultural center which promotes art and culture. He has also pledged around $225 million to help rebuild Notre Dame cathedral, which was devastated by a fire in April, per The Inquisitr.
In addition to being chairman of LVMH, Arnault made sure to include his children in his empire. Four of Arnault’s five children work at associated companies, and his daughter, Delphine, is the executive vice president at Louis Vuitton and favorite to take the mantle of LVMH chairman after her father relinquishes the role.