Forbes’ “billionaires list” has a new name in its top five: Bernard Arnault. The LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman jumped to the number 4 position on the magazine’s annual listing of the world’s richest, after spending last year in the number 11 position. The French billionaire, who heads up the world's largest luxury-goods conglomerate, which was formed in 1987 as a result of the merger of Paris-based fashion house Louis Vuitton and spirits group Moet Hennessy, joins Jeff Bezos (who pushed Bill Gates out of the top spot and to the number 2 position this year), Warren Buffett (number 3), and Mark Zuckerberg (number 5).
In late January, LVMH – which owns Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Celine, Christian Dior, and Loewe, among other fashion and non-fashion brands – announced that it welcomed record sales of 42.6 billion euros ($52.78 billion) in 2017, a 13 percent raise over 2016. Net profit amounted to nearly 30 percent.
The news drove LVMH’s stock – which is traded on Euronext NV, a European stock exchange – up 5 percent, which, in turn boosted Arnault’s net worth by $3.5 billion in a matter of hours. That multi-billion-dollar morning is just the latest “chapter in what is turning out to be one of his best years yet,” according to Forbes. It comes after Arnault announced a $13 billion deal to acquire Christian Dior (in which Arnault maintains a 97 percent stake) in April and bring the couture house under the LVMH umbrella.
Such stock market treatment and the strength of the euro against the dollar can be cited as helping Arnault – who is regularly described as a poised-yet-aggressive business builder – to “move ahead of Michael Bloomberg, Charles and David Koch, Larry Ellison and Carlos Slim, as well as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.”
In a statement in January, Arnault stated that the group’s “remarkable” growth was “due in part to the buoyant environment but above all to the remarkable creative strength of our brands and their ability to constantly reinvent themselves. Continued innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and the quest for excellence: all Maisons continue to assert these core values while maintaining rigorous execution of their strategies on the ground.”
Under Arnault’s watch, LVMH has grown from a two-dimensional fashion and spirits group to a truly global giant, with a collection of 70 different brands rooted in six different sectors to its name, these range from Louis Vuitton and Givenchy to Starboard Cruise Services and Princess Yachts. And that list is expected to begin to grow again, as LVMH and fellow Paris-based conglomerate Kering (which owns Gucci, Balenciaga, YSL, and Bottega Veneta) are said to be readying for their latest acquisition sprees.