Forget being a regular billionaire – Bernard Arnault is now a centibillionaire, a position currently held by just three people in the world. As of Tuesday Arnault – who is the chairman of luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton – joins the likes of Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates in what Bloomberg calls “the world’s most exclusive wealth club,” with a fortune of at least $100 billion.
70-year old Arnault nabbed the title on Tuesday after LVMH’s stock, which trades on the Amsterdam-headquartered Euronext exchange, climbed 2.9% to a record 368.80 euros a share, increasing his net worth to almost $32 billion so far this year, the biggest total jump on Bloomberg’s 500-member Billionaires Index.
The LVMH chairman, whose conglomerate owns Louis Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy, Celine, Loewe, and Marc Jacobs, among 70 or so other fashion and non-fashion luxury brands, has been inching up the upper echelon of Forbes’ “World’s Richest” list over the past year, in particular. He first ousted Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega – the force behind retail conglomerate Inditex and its roster of Zara, Zara Home, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Oysho, Pull and Bear, Stradivarius and Uterqüe – from the number 4 spot on the world’s richest list, as well as for the titles of the wealthiest figure in Europe and the wealthiest figure in fashion.
More recently, Arnault advanced again. This time surpassing 88-year old American business magnate Warren Buffett in April thanks to an LVMH stock surge after the group released its first quarter earnings report. That landed him in the top three, following behind Amazon’s Bezos and Microsoft-founder Gates.
“Arnault’s fortune of $100.4 billion now equals more than 3 percent of France’s economy, underscoring the wealth gap in his native country, where protesters have agitated this year for more benefits paid for by the rich,” Bloomberg noted on Tuesday. So far in 2019, LVMH’s shares have grown by 43 percent, making it the “third-best performer on the French CAC 40,” a market capitalization weighted index that reflects the performance of the 40 largest and most actively traded shares listed on Euronext Paris.
The growth achieved by LVMH, as well as rival conglomerate Kering – which owns Gucci, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, and Bottega Veneta, and whose stock recorded an increase of more than 33 percent, the largest increase of the year on the CAC 40, as of May 2018 – has been “reshaping the French [CAC 40] benchmark, long the realm of energy, infrastructure, financial and telecommunications stocks,” Bloomberg reported last year.
2018 marked a milestone for LVMH, when it took the top spot on the CAC 40 from Total, the multinational integrated oil and gas company and one of the seven "Supermajor" oil companies in the world, at least in part because of “several complicated years for oil prices, which has been a direct factor in Total's performance," Andrea Tueni, an analyst at Saxo Bank, told AFP at the time.
While analysts such as Tueni characterized the spot swap “a small event on the CAC 40,” fashion industry insiders called it a significant endorsement of the financial health of luxury brands, particularly in light of lingering doubts as to the strength of spending in China, whose consumers account for one-third of the world’s luxury spending.
As of the time of publication, LVMH maintained its spot atop the CAC 40 list, followed by L’Oreal and Total.