Meet Bernard Arnault, the French billionaire who just became richer than Warren Buffett and controls luxury-goods empire LVMH

Chesnot/Getty ImagesBernard Arnault is the chairman and CEO of LVMH, the world’s largest maker of luxury goods.

French businessman Bernard Arnault, the richest person in Europe,just overtook Warren Buffett to be the third-richest person in the world, Bloomberg reported.

Arnault is worth an estimated $US83.1 billion and Buffett is worth $US83 billion, according to Bloomberg. Arnault surpassed Buffett by about $US100 million on Tuesday.

Arnault is the chairman and CEO of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, known as LVMH, the world’s largest maker of luxury goods, making him the richest person in the fashion industry. LVMH, which recorded more than $US53 billion in revenue in 2018, is made up of 70 companies including Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Dom Perignon Champagne, TAG Heuer, and Rimowa.

Arnault’s wealth is now exceeded only by Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.

In contrast to Bloomberg’s update yesterday, Forbes’ annual Billionaires’ List released earlier that day estimates Arnault’s total net worth to be $US76 billion.

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Meet the Wertheimers, the secretive French brothers worth $US42 billion who control Chanel, own vineyards in France and Napa Valley, and breed racehorses

Four of Arnault’s five children are part of the LVMH empire. His daughter, Delphine, is the executive vice president at Louis Vuitton and apparent heiress to LVMH.

Arnault, who lives in Paris and has a vacation home on the French Riviera, attended one of the most prestigious engineering schools in France and was named CEO of luxury goods holding company, Financiere Agache, in 1984, according to Bloomberg.

Here’s a look at Arnault’s career, life, and family.

Bernard Arnault is the richest person in Europe, worth an estimated $US83.1 billion. On March 5, he surpassed Warren Buffett to become the third-richest person in the world.

Source: Bloomberg

The 70-year-old French businessman is the chairman and CEO of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, known as LVMH, a position he’s held since 1989. LVMH is the world’s largest maker of luxury goods.

Getty Images

Source: Bloomberg

The business is a family affair; four of Arnault’s five children hold positions at LVMH brands.

Getty ImagesAntoine Arnault, Bernard Arnault, and Delphine Arnault at a fashion show in Paris in January 2019.

Source: Bloomberg

Arnault’s wealth is now exceeded only by Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesJeff Bezos, the richest person in the world.

Source: Bloomberg

Arnault owns a 96.5% stake in Christian Dior, which controls 41% of LVMH.

Source: Bloomberg

LVMH, which recorded more than $US53 billion in revenue in 2018, is made up of 70 companies that sell products such as Louis Vuitton leather goods …

Source: Bloomberg, LVMH

… TAG Heuer watches …

Getty ImagesActress Priyanka Chopra poses with a Tag Heuer watch in New Delhi in 2007.

… and Dom Perignon Champagne. In 2018, LVMH brought in $US53 billion in revenue.

Getty Images

Source: LVMH

Arnault comes from the northern French town of Roubaix.

Getty Images

Source: Bloomberg

He studied engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique, a prestigious school in Paris that counts three former French presidents and three Nobel Prize winners among its alumni.

Shutterstock/EQRoyThe original campus of Ecole Polytechnique in Paris’ Latin Quarter, where the school was located until 1976.

Source: Business Insider, Bloomberg

After graduating, Arnault spent a stint working for his father’s construction company, Ferret-Savinel, before entering the luxury goods industry. He became CEO of luxury goods holding company, Financiere Agache, in 1984.

Getty ImagesLVMH vice president Alain Chevalier and Bernard Arnault, then CEO of Financiere Agache, at an event in Paris in 1988.

Source: Bloomberg

Arnault married Anne Dewavrin in 1973 and they had two children together before separating in 1990. Arnault remarried to Helene Mercier, a Canadian concert pianist, in 1991.

He reportedly wooed her by playing Chopin and other classical composers for her.

Laurent VAN DER STOCKT/Gamma-Rapho via Getty ImagesArnault at his home in 2000.

Source: Forbes

The French billionaire and his wife live on Paris’s Left Bank south of the Seine River, a historic area that includes neighbourhoods such as the Latin Quarter and St. Germain-des-Prés.

Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Source: Bloomberg, The New York Times

In their home, Arnault keeps a collection of modern and contemporary art from artists that include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan, Andy Warhol, and Pablo Picasso.

Ben Pruchnie / Staff / Getty ImagesArt handlers hang ‘Tete De Femme’ by Pablo Picasso at a 2016 Sotheby’s auction in London.

Source: Bloomberg

Arnault has five children: two with his first wife and three with his current wife.

Getty ImagesArnault with three of his sons at the Roland Garros 2018 French Open tennis tournament in Paris in June 2018.

Source: The New York Times

Antoine Arnault and Delphine Arnault are his two children from his first marriage.

Getty ImagesAntoine and Delphine Arnault with their father, Bernard Arnault, in 2015.

Source: The New York Times, LVMH

Delphine, Bernard’s oldest daughter, is the apparent heiress to the LVMH empire.

Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

She started her career at American consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. in Paris and is now the executive vice president at Louis Vuitton.

Source: Business of Fashion,The New York Times

In January 2019, Delphine became the youngest member of LVMH’s executive committee at age 43.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty ImagesBernard Arnault and Delphine Arnault.


Delphine married Italian wine heir Alessandro Vallarino Gancia in 2005 in what Forbes called “France’s wedding of the year.” The couple divorced in 2010.


Source: Forbes, Business Insider

She now reportedly lives with tech billionaire Xavier Niel and has one daughter. But Delphine is notoriously private about her personal life. “I’m quite discreet,” she told the Financial Times in a rare 2014 interview. “I think I’d rather focus on my work.”

Vincent Isore/IP3/Getty ImagesXavier Niel, Delphine Arnault, and Bernard Arnault in Paris in April 2018.

Source: Financial Times

Delphine’s younger brother, Antoine, is chief executive of menswear label Berluti and chairman of the cashmere label Loro Piana, both LVMH brands.

Getty Images

Source: The New York Times, LVMH

In addition to those roles, Antoine was named head of communication and image for LVMH in June 2018.

Corbis via Getty ImagesAntoine Arnault at a Louis Vuitton show in January 2019 in Paris.

Source: Business of Fashion

His partner is supermodel Natalia Vodianova, whom he reportedly met on a shoot for a 2008 Louis ­Vuitton campaign when he was the brand’s head of communications.

Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty ImagesAntoine Arnault and Natalie Vodianova during 2019 fashion week in Paris, France.

Source: W Magazine

The couple lives in Paris with their two children and Vodianova’s three children from a previous marriage.

Jacopo Raule/Getty ImagesNatalia Vodianova and Antoine Arnault during Paris Fashion Week in January 2019.

Source: W Magazine

Alexandre, the son of Bernard Arnault and Helene Mercier, is the CEO of Rimowa, a German luggage brand owned by LVMH.

Getty ImagesAlexandre Arnault at Fondation Louis Vuitton in October 2018 in Paris.

Source: The New York Times, LVMH, Getty Images

The luggage company he runs brings in more than $US455 million in annual revenue.

Donato Sardella/Getty Images for Louis VuittonAlexandre Arnault and his father, Bernard Arnault.

Source: LVMH

Alexandre travels frequently between Cologne, Germany, where Rimowa luggage is made, London, his hometown of Paris, and Los Angeles, where Rimowa recently opened a new store.

Foc Kan/WireImage

Source: The New York Times

He’s reportedly friends with Evan Spiegel, the chief executive of Snap, Snapchat’s parent company. Spiegel called Alexandre “a really creative guy,” according to The New York Times. “He’s constantly thinking about the brand and how to express that.”

Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty ImagesDelphine Arnault and Alexandre Arnault.

Source: The New York Times

Alexandre’s younger brother, Frederic, also has a role at LVMH. He joined the conglomerate as the strategy and digital director at Swiss luxury watch brand TAG Heuer, LVMH’s largest watch brand, in 2018.

Source: The New York Times

Frederic graduated from his father’s alma mater, École Polytechnique in Paris, and interned at Facebook and consulting firm McKinsey before joining LVMH as the temporary head of connected technologies at TAG Heuer in 2017.

Getty ImagesFrederic Arnault at a TAG Heuer auction in October 2018 in London.

Source: The New York Times

Arnault’s youngest son, Jean, is the only one of his children not involved at LVMH.

Rindoff Petroff/Hekimian/Getty ImagesJean Arnault (front left) with his brother, Frederic (center) and father, Bernard (right).

Source: The New York Times

Like many billionaires do, Arnault travels by private jet.

Marc DEVILLE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty ImagesBernard Arnault on his private jet between Beijing and Shanghai in 2004.

Source: Getty Images

He owns a sprawling vacation villa in glitzy Saint-Tropez on the French Riviera …

Getty ImagesBernard Arnault’s Saint-Tropez villa in 2015.

Source: Telegraph

… where he has been seen enjoying some tennis matches.

Getty ImagesAn undated photo of Arnault playing tennis in Saint Tropez.

Source: Getty Images

Arnault has also reportedly spent at least $US96.4 million on residential properties in Los Angeles, in the Beverly Hills, Trousdale Estates, and Hollywood Hills neighbourhoods.

Shutterstock/Zhukova Valentyna

Source: The Real Deal

Arnault has rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s influential figures, in the fashion world and otherwise. In 2017, he met President Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York City right before Trump’s inauguration to discuss expanding LVMH factories in the US.

Getty Images

Source: WWD

He was photographed at parties with Lady Diana, Princess of Wales.

Getty ImagesBritish fashion designer of Dior John Galliano, magazine editor Liz Tilberis, Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, with Helene Mercier and Bernard Arnault CEO at the Dior 50th Anniversary party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Source: Getty Images

Arnault was reportedly friends with Apple founder Steve Jobs, who once said to Arnault: “You know Bernard, I don’t know if in 50 years my iPhone will still be a success but I can tell you, I’m sure everybody will still drink your Dom Pérignon.”

Source: CNBC

Former Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein once called Arnault “a complete visionary,” adding that he “saw the increase of wealth in the world.”

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The New York TimesGoldman Sachs Group chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

Source: CNBC

Arnault is reportedly longtime friends with former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Arnault was a witness at the former president’s wedding to Carla Bruni.

Getty ImagesBernard Arnault and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy at an event in 1994.

Source: The New York Times

Here, Arnault can be seen shaking hands with Vladimir Putin during the Russian president’s 2003 visit to the Chateau Cheval Blanc vineyard — owned by LVMH — in France.

Getty ImagesVladimir Putin and Bernard Arnault at the Chateau Cheval Blanc on in Saint Emilion, France, in February 2003.

Source: LVMH

Arnault considered legendary late designer and Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld a good friend. “The death of this dear friend deeply saddens me, my wife and my children,” Arnault said in a statement. “We loved and admired him deeply. Fashion and culture has lost a great inspiration.”

Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty ImagesKarl Lagerfeld and Bernard Arnault in Paris in June 2018.

Source: LVMH

Arnault has a longstanding public rivalry with Francois Pinault, the second-richest man in France, who’s worth $US34.3 billion.

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagicFrançois-Henri Pinault, Francois Pinault’s son.

Source: Bloomberg, Forbes

Pinault is the founder and CEO of French luxury brand Kering, which owns brands including Gucci and Yves St. Laurent. The billionaire also owns Christie’s auction house.

ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty ImagesFrançois-Henri Pinault, Francois Pinault’s son.

Source: Bloomberg

Arnault’s LVMH originally tried to acquire a majority stake in Gucci in 1999, but Pinault ultimately snatched up the brand.

Source: Forbes

Over the years, Arnault has built LVMH into the largest luxury conglomerate in the world and earned himself an imposing nickname: “the wolf in the cashmere coat.”

Chesnot/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

He’s behind the creation of Fondation Louis Vuitton, a Frank Gehry-designed contemporary art museum and performance space in Paris that opened in 2014.

Michael Jacobs/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

As the world’s third-richest person, Arnault is getting richer at an astonishing rate. In January 2019, he made $US4.3 billion in a single day after LVMH shares surged 6.9%.

Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images

Source: Bloomberg

And between the end of January and February 27, 2019, he added another $US3.9 billion to his fortune, which brought his total net worth to only $US2.3 billion less than Warren Buffett’s.

Source: Bloomberg, Bloomberg Billionaires Index

Arnault’s jump into third place on Bloomberg’s wealth ranking is the first time he’s been ranked higher than fourth.


Source: Bloomberg

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