LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault Overtakes Warren Buffett on "World's Richest" List

There is always a big-money battle underway at the top of the Forbes food chain. The publication’s ever-slightly-ebbing “World’s Richest” list, where the likes of Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Bernard Arnault, and Carlos Slim hold court, saw a new bout of activity on Wednesday. Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, jumped from the number 4 position to number 3, thereby, ousting 88-year old American business magnate Warren Buffett. 

The position of the French billionaire – who heads up LVMH, 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 – advanced on the heels of LVMH releasing its first quarter earnings report on Wednesday. With news of group revenues rising 16 percent to $14.1 billion for the first three months of the year, LVMH’s stock price jumped more than 3 percent, thereby helping to boost Arnault’s fortune. 

According to Reuters, LVMH shares, which trade on Euronext, closed at an increase of 2.45 percent on Wednesday before the results were published, at 329.8 euros per share, “just shy of a recent record high of 337.5 euros hit earlier this month.” As the majority shareholder of Dior SE, the main holding company of LVMH, Arnualt’s own bottom line was directly impacted by the stock’s boost in price. 

For much of last year, Arnault, who currently holds the title of the wealthiest European with a net worth of $87.2 billion, was battling Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega – whose own retail conglomerate owns Zara, Zara Home, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Oysho, Pull and Bear, Stradivarius and Uterqüe – for the number 4 spot on the world’s richest list, as well as for the title of the wealthiest figure in fashion.  

In a statement coinciding with the release of its first quarter results, the Paris-based conglomerate noted that its Fashion & Leather Goods business group achieved organic revenue growth of 15 percent, while organic revenue for its Perfumes & Cosmetics division increased by 9 percent in the first quarter. Growth for the latter was “mainly driven by the performance of its iconic brands,” but the LVMH did, in fact, name-check its newer Fenty Beauty by Rihanna venture, which “continued to grow rapidly.”  

The group also revealed that despite looming questions about the consumer climate in China, particularly when it comes to luxury spending, “all geographic regions are experiencing good growth.”