We all know Bernard Arnault as the fashion tycoon who stands at the top of Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton but few know the full extent of his wealth. Earlier this year, in April, Bernard Arnault’s net worth of over $240 billion made him the richest person in the world. At the time of writing, Arnault’s net worth has fallen to around $184.7 billion, placing him in the second spot right after the current richest man, Elon Musk.

People know this man as a fashion mogul or as they like to call him, ‘The Pope of Fashion’ and ‘The Wolf in the Cashmere Coat’. Arnault is also recognized for his fine art collection, diverse investment portfolio, and decades-long role as chairman and CEO of the world’s largest fashion brand conglomerate.

In this post, we’ll explore Arnault’s incredible business journey from entering the fashion industry to becoming one of the richest people in the world.

Bernard Arnault’s Net Worth Breakdown: 

Bernard Arnault does not publicly disclose his exact net worth or give a detailed breakdown of his wealth. We can only estimate it based on his ownership stakes in different businesses and known assets.

Asset Contribution to Net Worth
Stake in LVMH (Via Christian Dior) 41.4% ~ $154 billion
Venture Capital Investments Unknown but over $3.4 billion
Real Estate $200 million+
Yacht and Private Jet $190 million
Art Collection Unknown but likely $1 billion+
Total Net Worth $187.7 billion

Arnault’s Early Life

Bernard Jean Etienne Arnault was born on March 5, 1949, in Roubaix, France into a prosperous family of entrepreneurs. His father, Jean Leon Arnault, owned a civil engineering company called Ferret-Savinel.

Arnault attended the high school Maxence Van Der Meerch in Roubaix and later earned an Engineering degree from the Prestigious Ecole Polytechnique University in 1971.

After graduating, Arnault initially worked as an engineer at his father’s company. In 1978, he assumed the role of chairman and renamed it to Ferinel Inc. He realized that engineering wasn’t his true passion in life nor was it the best way forward for the company.

He pivoted the company to sell the construction side of the business and double down on real estate. This move was remarkably successful and gave him the necessary funds to expand the business.

This marked the beginning of his journey into the world of fashion and laid the foundation for LVMH.

Today, Arnault’s fortune is shared with his family, including Helene Mercier, his second wife, and their five children who all work at LVMH in various capacities.

Arnault
The Arnault Family

Bernard Arnault Net Worth: How The Fortune Was Made

Bernard Arnault, now 75 years old, has served as the chairman and CEO of Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton for 34 years and has a 97.5% stake in Christian Dior. Let’s dive into it.

The First Billions of Arnault’s Fortune

Arnault’s path to billionaire status began after he successfully pivoted his family’s company into a successful real estate business.

He first appeared on Forbes’ billionaire list in 1997, before his 50th birthday. This happened eight years after acquiring LVHM. At that time, he had an estimated net worth of $3.6 billion. Now he is the 2nd richest person in the world.

How did this happen, you wonder?

It all started in a Taxi cab in the US. When visiting the States, Arnault was surprised to hear that his Taxi driver knew about the French luxury brand Christian Dior. He has said that this moment was the impetus for the acquisition.

He purchased Boussac, the parent company of Christian Dior, in 1984. Reports differ on how much he spent on the purchase. Many say that he used $15 million from Ferinel Inc. Others say that he was able to buy it for a ceremonious single franc.

He immediately started to cut off all of the flailing limbs of the troubled textile company, which was unusual at the time, especially in Europe.

Arnault aggressive business tactics during this period earned him the nickname ‘The Terminator’. He clearly stepped on some toes when he laid off 9,000 Boussac employees over just two years.

He also began accumulating shares in LVMH, which was quite new at that point. Moët Hennessy and Louis Vuitton had recently merged into LVMH in 1987.

Henry Racamier, the president of Louis Vuitton, asked Arnault to invest in his company and help push out his new business partner, Alain Chevalier, the CEO of Moët Hennessy. Arnault instead decided to oust both of them.

By the end of 1989, Arnault had spent over $2.6 billion to purchase enough shares to become the company’s largest shareholder. With this new power in hand, he became the company’s CEO and chairman.

Arnault’s incredible business acumen and decisiveness helped lead the company to become one of the largest and most profitable businesses in the world.

By 1997, his luxury conglomerate grew and reached $6 billion in annual revenue.

Arnault’s Leadership and Expansion in the Fashion Market

After Arnault entered the company as the CEO of LVMH, he wasted no time in pursuing the company’s expansion. With each acquisition, Arnault focused on keeping the brands’ unique name and identity while they all operated under LVMH.

Let’s take a look at the timeline for the biggest names under the LVMH umbrella.

Givenchy

A mere year after the merge, in 1988, another heavyweight in the fashion industry, Givenchy, joined LVMH. Founded in 1952, Givenchy has consistently ranked among the top fashion companies and is famously known for the iconic little black dress Hepburn wore in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’.

Audrey Hepburn in a Givenchy dress
Source

Céline

Founded in 1494 in Parise, Celine offers a wide range of fashion items ranging from clothing to shoes to accessories. Arnault acquired it in 1996 for around $540 million.

Marc Jacobs

At this point, the fashion world already recognized Arnault for his ruthless expansion of the fashion market by buying stocks from trending brands. In 1997, LVMH already owned a majority stake in the famous New York-based brand Marc Jacobs.

Sephora

In July 1997, LVMH made another massive acquisition, purchasing the French cosmetics giant Sephora for $262 million. Sephora has since been one of LVMH’s greatest successes.

Fendi

The Italian Fendi brand has existed since 1925 with a seat in Rome. In 2001, two companies had a significant portion of stakes in Fendi – LVMH and Prada. In December 2001, Arnault’s company bought stakes in Prada, which increased its shares in Fendi to 51%.

Christian Dior

A majority of Dior has been owned by LVMH since it was purchased as a part of Boussac. In 2017, LVMH consolidated its holdings of the Paris-based couture brand in a transaction worth $13.1 billion, buying up remaining shares from minority shareholders.

Tiffany & Co.

LVMH almost didn’t acquire Tiffany & Co, the American monolith in jewelry, because of the COVID-19 pandemic causing widespread losses in the US stock market. Luckily for LVMH, Tiffany sued the French luxury giant to complete the deal.

Eventually, LVMH agreed to buy all of Tiffany’s shares for $15.8 billion. This turned out to be one of the best business decisions for Arnault as Tiffany immediately became the 2nd largest brand under LVMH and has continued to bFbrring in staggering revenue.

These only make up a few of the largest brands under LVMH but they show Arnault’s incredible business acumen and analytical mind.

chart of LVMH revenue
Source

Failed LVMH Acquisitions

LVMH Group has evolved into a global conglomerate, but the journey has not always been smooth. Certain acquisition targets proved to be challenging, to say the least.

The two most notable failed acquisitions for LVMH and Arnault were Gucci and Hermes.

In 2001, the French businessman initiated the purchase of shares in Gucci. Because of his reputation as a ruthless businessman in the fashion world, Gucci was instantly alerted to his plan, so they offered to sell the business to LVMH for $85 million.

Arnault didn’t accept the offer, but this gave Gucci time to take legal action and ally with Francois Pinault (the chairman of Kering). Pinault bought out Arnault’s Gucci shares over a period of two years.

That same year, Arnault began buying shares in Hermes. However, he took smaller steps over the course of an entire decade, possibly trying to keep his acquisition ambitions under wraps. In 2010, LVMH publicly announced that it had a 14.2% stake in Hermes.

Hermes believed that Arnault used improper methods to acquire these shares. This resulted in legal battles, criminal complaints, and a shocking retort by Patrick Thomas, Hermes’ CEO:

“If you want to seduce a beautiful woman, you don’t start by raping her from behind”.

The legal battle came to an end in 2014 when Arnault relinquished most of his holding in the Hermes company.

These 2 failed acquisitions show that even one of the greatest businessmen in the world has setbacks and doesn’t get his way every time.

The Story of Arnault’s Evolving Fortune

Over the years, and particularly in the 2010s and 2020s, Arnault consistently secured top positions on the list of wealthiest people. Below is a chronological timeline of his evolving fortune:

2012: 

Arnault’s net worth grew to around $41 billion, making him the fourth richest person in the world and the richest man in France.

2013:

Arnault’s fortune dropped to $29 billion due to concerns related to his ownership stake. He took the tenth place on the world’s richest people list. This was a tough period for Arnault because of the public backlash over his citizenship application.

He decided to apply for Belgian citizenship and people believed that it was an attempt to avoid the tax policies in France. He eventually withdrew his Belgian citizenship application.

le monde newspaper
Source

2018:

Arnault’s net worth reached $72 billion, making the French businessman the fourth wealthiest person in the world and the first richest person in Europe.

2019:

In July, Arnault’s fortune reached $107 million. this made him the second richest person in the world. It was during this period that Arnault announced that he planned to spend $16 million to buy Tiffany & Co., the acquisition that is, to this day, one of the largest in the history of the luxury goods brand, and the brand now generates a large portion of LVMH’s revenue.

2021:

The Covid-19 pandemic turned out to be a boon for luxury brands. During 2021, Arnault’s net worth skyrocketed, placing him in the third spot on Forbes’ richest person list with $150 billion in net worth.

By May of that same year, Arnault became the richest person in the world thanks to the LVMH stock’s rise of 86%. At this point, his net worth was $186 billion.

2022:

Elon Musk, the now world’s richest person, had his Tesla stocks collapse by 57% in 2022. When Musk’s net worth fell to $185.3 billion, Arnault once again became the richest man in the world with $185.4 billion.

2023:

At the beginning of 2023, LVMH reported record profits and revenues. Since 2022, the stock price of the company has grown by 65%, so Arnault’s personal fortune has grown by billions.

This elevated the French businessman’s net worth to about $211 billion. This made him the third person in history to surpass the $200 billion mark and put him in the ranks of Musk and Bezos.

Bernard Arnault’s Net Worth Today

For the majority of 2023, Arnault and Musk have been neck-in-neck for the title of the richest person in the world. In late April, Arnault took the first place on the list with $241.1 billion compared to Musk’s $167.4 billion.

However, seeing how both individuals source their wealth mostly from their stakes at their companies i.e. LVMH and Tesla, their net worth fluctuates dramatically.

At the time of writing, Elon Musk holds the first spot and Arnault holds the second, but based on the last few years, this can change at any moment.

Investments from the World’s Richest Person

Let’s take a look at the investment portfolio of this luxury mogul:

Investments in Other Companies and Businesses

Of course, Arnault’s main holdings are LVMH stock. However, he has invested in quite a few other companies and assets over his life.

He is involved with a number of companies that generate income for him. He is a board member at Devialet, an Executive at Algae Ventures, and the President of the Board of Directors at Groupe Arnault S.E.

He shares his net worth with his family because part of it comes from the family-owned business Groupe Arnault S.E. This company is a principal investment firm that holds stakes in various companies, controlled by Arnault himself. The most notable investments of his family brand are:

  • Medigo – latest valuation of $8 million
  • Spotify – latest valuation of $28.1 billion
  • Ledger – latest valuation of $1.4 billion
  • ClueApp – latest valuation of $66 million
  • Wiz – latest valuation of $300 million
  • Netflix – latest valuation of $168 billion

Art Investments

Arnault is a famous art collector. His private art collection includes a mixed portfolio of art pieces worth billions, including art from Takashi Murakami, Yves Klein, Claude Monet, Picasso, Chris Burden, Richard Serra, and Andy Warhol.

Today, Helene and Bernard’s art collection ranks them among the Top 200 collectors worldwide.

He’s a strong patron of the arts and uses LVMH as a vehicle that supports individual artists and art organizations. For instance, he hired Takashi Murakami to design Louis Vuitton handbags. He also hired Jeff Koons to design a special package for Dom Perignon.

No one knows the exact worth of his art collection but it’s easily one of his largest holdings after his LVMH stake.

Real Estate

Mr. Bernard owns hotels and various properties around the world.

One of his most popular properties is the massive waterfront mansion located in Saint-Tropez, France. He also owns over $100 million worth of real estate in Los Angeles.

It’s not just houses and hotels, though. Bernard Arnault reportedly owns a 135-acre private island called Indigo, located in the Bahamas. This island offers retreats for around $300,000 per week.

The luxury hotels that are owned by LVMH include Cheval Blanc and Belmond Hotel. LVMH now has over 46 Belmond hotels worldwide.

Yachts and Private Jet

The billionaire owns several yachts, including his superyacht called Symphony. At one point, he owned Amadeus, a yacht built in 1969, where he hosted many prominent personalities like the Rockstar Bono and the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. He sold this yacht in 2015.

His Symphony superyacht, for instance, is worth $150 million and can accommodate 36 passengers. He also owns a Dassault Falcon 7X, a private jet worth north of $40 million.

Wines and Spirits

LVMH owns 23 houses that produce high-end cognacs, champagnes, and wines. The most prominent brands include Krug, Hennessy, Chateau d’Yguem, and Moet and Chandon.

Other Investments

In addition to this, it is said that Arnault has a secret NFT collection with an unknown value. He owns many other properties and a private jet he uses to travel around the world.

What Can We Learn From Bernard Arnault’s Success?

Bernard Arnault’s journey to business success provides a myriad of teachable moments and themes to learn from. His decisiveness is likely the greatest lesson.

Arnault’s decision to purchase Boussac, leading him down the path to becoming one of the world’s richest people, was made in an instant while talking to a taxi driver. Business owners and entrepreneurs need to be ready to make leaps of faith when they know they have a great idea on their hands.

His ability to foster creativity also shows that you can walk your own unique path and still be tremendously successful. This doesn’t just apply to the luxury goods or art world either. Creativity is vital for building a successful business in all kinds of industries.

Finally, he has shown the importance of perseverance in the face of great challenges. When he ran into problems acquiring Hermes and Gucci, he didn’t let them bother him and continued to make tremendously successful acquisitions for years.