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Who is Bernard Arnault? Louis Vuitton chief passes Bill Gates as world’s second-richest person

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

Luxury goods mogul Bernard Arnault has displaced Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates as the second wealthiest person in the world.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the 70-year-old who currently is the chairman and chief executive of Louis Vuitton SE or LVMH (LVMHF) broke through to the top 3 ranks last month when his net worth surpassed $100 billion for the first time.

Gates had held steady as the second-richest person the world — behind Amazon’s Jeff Bezos — for seven years.

But Arnault took Gates’ spot after LVMH stock surged on Tuesday, increasing his net worth to $107.6 billion.

The Frenchman’s total worth is now more than 3% of France’s economy.

Bernard Arnault attends a conference during Viva Technology at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on June 16, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo credit: Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images)

Who is Bernard Arnault? The ‘wolf in cashmere’

Arnault, who is known as “the wolf in cashmere,” was born in he French city of Roubaix.

He joined his family’s construction business in 1971 and moved to the U.S. in 1981 when the socialists came to power in France.

Back then, he was considered a “was a little-known real-estate developer trying to expand his venerable French family's influence in New Rochelle, N.Y,” according to a New York Times Article from 1989.

He entered the luxury market in 1984 with an acquisition of a near-bankrupt French textile company that owned Christian Dior.

He later sold the company’s other businesses and used the money to buy a controlling stake in LVMH, which was at that point a merger between Louis Vuitton and champagne and cognac maker Moët Hennessy.

A woman with a Louis Vuitton-branded shopping bag looks towards the entrance of a branch store by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton in Vienna in 2018. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Lisi Niesner)

Arnault then ousted the Louis Vuitton president and took over, a strategy that he repeated over the years, and has built the luxury goods conglomerate that today owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, and more.

While his “brash American-style” approach to business was criticized by the French press in the past, he’s described by The Telegraph as a man of refined taste: He’s a classical pianist and an art collector.

(Source: Yahoo Finance, as of 11:58AM E.T. on July 17, 2019)

LVMH stock soars

LVMH saw revenue growth grow 16% in the first quarter of this year, led by strength in fashion and leather goods.

The company also recently announced that it reached an agreement with Stella McCartney to further develop the Stella McCartney House. Stella McCartney, a British fashion house, was up until last year owned by LVMH’s competitor Kering.

LVMH is due to report its first half results on July 24.

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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