Image: Adam Katz Sinding

After nabbing second place on the list of the world’s richest in July 2019, ever-so-briefly ousting Amazon’s Jeff Bezos from the top spot a few months later in December, and then falling quite a bit in 2020, as COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the luxury sector, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman Bernard Arnault has regained his title as the second richest person in the world by Forbes’ estimations, with a net worth of more than $137 billion, thanks to a rally in the share price of the Euronext-traded LVMH. 

71-year old Arnault, who is sitting in the number 3 spot on Bloomberg’s “richest” list, which puts his worth at $103 billion, added $7 billion to his wealth on Monday, alone, “as European stocks and luxury companies soared on the back of the Covid-19 vaccine news from Pfizer,” according to CNBC, having “added about $16 billion to his wealth over the past two weeks – more than entire purchase price of jewelry giant Tiffany,” which LVMH finally agreed to acquire for $15.8 billion, following a legal scuffle with Tiffany & Co. over the pricing of the deal. 

CNBC notes that regardless of the ranking, with Forbes and Bloomberg utilizing different methodologies for gauging net worth, both lists “show that the stock market boom of the past two weeks has created vast wealth for the world’s billionaires.” That same surge has upped the number of “centibillionaires” – i.e., those with a fortune of at least $100 billion – to five, up from the three – Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Bernard Arnault – that were members of what Bloomberg calls “the world’s most exclusive wealth club,” as of June 2019. 

The recent rebound comes after Arnault’s net worth fell significantly as a result of the onset of COVID-19 and the enduring impact that it is having on the upscale segment of the retail market. Shares in Paris-based LVMH – which holds the title of the largest luxury goods conglomerate in the world in connection with its roster of upwards of 70 luxury brands, from Louis Vuitton, Celine, Givenchy, and Dior to Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon, and Veuve Clicquot, among others – fell significantly in light of the global health pandemic, as sales and profit margins for the group diminished due to the temporary shuttering of stores across the globe and the widespread pattern of consumers shunning luxury purchases and travel.

As of August, Arnault’s net worth had plunged by $25.1 billion thus far for the year to $80.2 billion, making him “the biggest loser among the world’s 500 richest people.”

Since the earliest months of the pandemic, Chinese demand has rebounded, helping to rebuild the bottom lines of luxury goods entities, such as LVMH and rival French conglomerate Kering, both of which “reported mid-double digit sales growth in China for the second quarter,” per Bloomberg, while Tiffany & Co.’s CEO Alessandro Bogliolo stated in mid-October that the company’s “business has rebounded following the first quarter and continues to rebound in the third quarter, especially in Mainland China.”