Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani has claimed the number 4 spot on the “World’s Richest” list. In recent weeks, the 63-year old head of the Mumbai-based multinational conglomerate – which maintains businesses in the energy, petrochemicals, textiles, natural resources, retail, and telecommunications sectors in India – “surpassed some of the biggest tycoons – a list that includes Silicon Valley titans, such as Elon Musk, Alphabet Inc. co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and Warren Buffett.” As for who Ambani ousted for the top 4 spot, that would be none other than LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman Bernard Arnault.
As Bloomberg reported on Monday, Ambani tacked a whopping $22 billion onto his next worth so far this year, bringing his individual fortune to a total of $80.6 billion. “While Reliance, a conglomerate with a huge energy empire, was slammed by a slump in demand for oil amid Covid-19,” per Bloomberg, its shares – which Ambani is the largest holder of – “have more than doubled from a low in March as its digital unit got billions in investments from companies including Facebook Inc. and Google.”
At the same time, the fortune of Arnault – who has held the title of the richest man in Europe since April 2018 when his wealth surpassed that of Amancio Ortega, the founder and former chairman of Inditex Group, which owns fast fashion chain Zara – has suffered 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, have been falling significantly in light of the global health pandemic, right along with ever-diminishing sales and profit margins for the group, as stores across the globe temporarily shuttered in recent months and as many consumers have shunned luxury purchases and travel, at least for the time being.
(Travel-related retail is significant for LVMH given that the majority of luxury purchases by Chinese consumers – who account for some 35 percent of global luxury sales, per Bain & Co., and nearly all of the growth in the market – occur beyond the borders of the Chinese mainland and away from the China’s highly-taxed borders. As such, travel bans are having a sweeping impact on the luxury brands, particularly as many have been ramping up their duty-free and other travel-related retail operations in recent years.)
Arnault’s group, which owns upwards of 70 luxury brands, from Louis Vuitton, Celine, Givenchy, and Dior to Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon, and Veuve Clicquot, among others, revealed in July that sales for the first half of the year were down by 27 percent for a total of $21.6 billion, dragging the company’s shares down right with its plummeting revenue.
Despite consistent gains by Arnault in recent years, including his rise to become one of just three centibillionaires in the world (i.e., individuals with a fortune of at least $100 billion) in June 2019, alongside Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Bloomberg reports that “with LVMH shares down this year, Arnault has become the biggest loser among the world’s 500 richest people.” In 2020, alone, the 71-year old Frenchman’s net worth has plunged $25.1 billion to $80.2 billion.