Forbes has ranked luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault of France as the ”World’s Richest Person 2023”.
According to Forbes on Tuesday, Arnault has made it to the pinnacle on the back of a banner year at LVMH: revenue, profits and shares all climbed to record highs, helping to add $53 billion to Arnault’s fortune over the past 12 months, the biggest gain of any billionaire this year.
Arnault, a 74-year-old trained engineer makes the 2023 list with a $211 billion fortune, outpacing last year’s No. 1 Elon Musk (now ranked second) by $31 billion, per Forbes’ calculations.
”Arnault’s name isn’t nearly as recognizable to the general public as the brands that LVMH owns: Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Tiffany, Sephora, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs and more.
”In the roughly three decades since Arnault gained control of LVMH, he’s turned it into the world’s largest luxury goods company, with more than 70 brands and loyal customers around the globe. Bolstered by pricey acquisitions, revenues have grown from $4 billion in 1989 to $86 billion last year. LVMH’s stock soared 35% over the past year.
”The Frenchman first appeared on Forbes’ billionaires list in 1997, when he was worth $3.6 billion. He quickly climbed the ranks, vaulting into the top 20 richest by 2005 (worth $17 billion) and then becoming the world’s fourth richest in 2011 (worth $41 billion).
”His fortune took a mammoth leap in 2018, rising to $71 billion from from the prior year’s $41.5 billion–though he still ranked No. 4. For the past three years, he’s been third richest–last year trailing Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
”Arnault has clearly mastered the formula of how to make classic luxury goods maintain their appeal. “Why are brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior so successful? They have these two aspects, which may be contradictory: They are timeless, [and] they are at the utmost level of modernity,” Arnault told Forbes in 2019. The Louis Vuitton maison–which sells $2,000 handbags as well as watches, jewelry and apparel–pulled in revenues of $21.7 billion (20 billion Euros) last year.
”His moves to add new designers and brands have given LVMH an edge. The cosmetics line Fenty Beauty, launched in partnership with pop star Rihanna in 2017, surged to $550 million in revenues by 2019, and doubled revenues last year (to an undisclosed amount), the company said. There have been failures, of course. A luxury fashion line launched in 2019 with Rihanna, called Fenty, never took off; in February 2021, Rihanna and LVMH announced they were putting the brand on hold.
”Wealthier than ever, Arnault is now planning for succession. In July, he proposed a reorganization of his holding company, Agache, which holds the bulk of his LVMH stock, to give equal stakes to his five children, all of whom hold executive positions at the company.
”In January, he appointed his daughter, Delphine, 47, to head Dior, the second biggest brand at the company,” Forbes said.