How LVMH’s Bernard Arnault became the richest man in the world

The head of luxury goods giant LVMH is only the third person in history to have amassed a $200 billion fortune.

Bernard Arnault, who earned the nickname “the wolf of Kashmir” during his decades at the helm, is now worth $201 billion (£161 billion), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The Wolf in Kashmir: Bernard Arnault

The Wolf in Kashmir: Bernard Arnault

This makes the Frenchman only the third person – and first non-American – to reach this milestone, after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos in 2020 and Tesla’s Elon Musk in 2021.

But Arnault is worth significantly more than his U.S. peers — and is now the world’s richest man — as LVMH shares continue to climb while Amazon and Tesla falter.

The milestone is a crowning achievement for the 74-year-old, who has built LVMH into Europe’s most valuable company, valued at £370 billion, about the value of the three largest companies on the London Stock Exchange – Shell, HSBC and Unilever – combined.

LVMH owns a number of high-end brands, including jewelers Tiffany and Bulgari, alongside fashion brands Givenchy, Celine, Stella McCartney and Christian Dior, among many others.

Stocks and earnings have soared over the past year amid booming demand for luxury goods.

And analysts believe there is more to come. Sophie Lund-Yates, senior equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, believes LVMH is “well protected against economic shocks” because of its wealthy clients, who are less likely to cut spending due to rising costs of living.

In his January speech, Arnault himself was in an optimistic mood, declaring that if business continues like this “it’s going to be an excellent year”.

Demand for designer handbags and watches is expected to skyrocket after China scrapped its zero-Covid policy last year, as Chinese shoppers scramble to stock up on expensive goods.


According to Lund-Yates, LVMH has had a “metereal rise to what it is today,” thanks in large part to being a tightly managed ship under Arnault. “You can’t stop your progress,” she says, adding that the company “is at the top of the game when it comes to creative power,” as evidenced by last fall’s well-received collections from Dior and Celine.

Arnault has earned a reputation for making reckless decisions and letting competitors speculate about the company’s future. Rumors circulate about which of Arnault’s five children will be anointed to take over the business.

All five play important roles, leading to a real-life succession-style inheritance saga.

This year, Arnault’s only daughter Delphine, who celebrated her 48th birthday this week, has been appointed CEO of Christian Dior.

Until then, his eldest son Antoine was the front runner. The 45-year-old has spoken enthusiastically about his siblings, saying they “grew up with real values ​​about the importance of work and respect for people”.

But Arnault Sr. has shown no sign of slowing down and LVMH recently raised its age limit for CEOs from 75 to 80.


Empire-building began when, shortly after graduating from a prestigious Paris university, he convinced his father’s construction company to take over a textile business.

He soon showed his ruthless streak, authorizing 9,000 job cuts after buying the company behind the Christian Dior brand in 1984.

LVMH itself was born in 1987 as a love child from a merger between fashion house Louis Vuitton and champagne maker Moet Hennessy. The portfolio now has around 70 brands and shares hit a record high of €851 on Tuesday – Delphine’s birthday – after rising about a quarter this year and almost 200 per cent since the lows of the pandemic.

Luxury retail analyst Wizz Selvey praised LVMH for “giving brands under their umbrella an independent voice, tone and perspective”.

Forging distinct identities for brands from Louis Vuitton to Givenchy is “a real achievement” of Arnault’s leadership of the company and bodes well for future acquisitions, Selvey added.

The triumph for LVMH came amid fears that the London stock market would be left behind by Paris.

Unfortunately for many in the City, Paris overtook London last year to become the largest hub for stock trading in Europe.

And while there are real fears that London is losing steam, much of the changing of the guard can be attributed to the success of LVMH, the Parisian luxury powerhouse built by Arnault.

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