Who is Bernard Arnault? The ‘wolf in cashmere’ overtakes Elon Musk as the world’s richest person

Luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault is now the richest man in the world, climbing Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk to second place, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of Louis Vuitton SE or LVMH (LVMUY), saw a loss of more than $7 billion in his net worth in 2022 while LVMH stock fell nearly 6.58% over the same time period. That wasn’t enough to stop him from taking the top spot, though, as Musk’s net worth may have fallen by more than $100 billion in 2022.

The French businessman has a net worth of $171 billion, which is more than 5% of the French economy, compared to Musk’s net worth of $164 billion.

Who is Bernard Arnault? The wolf in cashmere

Known as “The Wolf in Cashmere”, Arnault was born in Roubaix, France.

He joined his family’s construction business in 1971 and moved to the United States in 1981 when the Socialists took power in France.

At the time, he was considered “a little-known real estate developer trying to extend the influence of his venerable French family in New Rochelle, New York,” according to a 1989 New York Times article.

Arnault entered the luxury market in 1984 with the acquisition of a nearly bankrupt French textile company that owned Christian Dior.

CEO of French luxury group LVMH Bernard Arnault attends the LVMH event in Paris on May 16, 2022 (Photo by Eric Permon/AFP)

He later sold the company’s other businesses and used the money to buy a controlling stake in LVMH, which at the time was a merger between Louis Vuitton and champagne and cognac maker Moët Hennessy.

Arnault then ousted the Louis Vuitton boss and took over, a strategy he has repeated over the years. The luxury goods group owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, and more.

In January 2021, LVMH acquired jewelry company Tiffany & Co for $15.8 billion.

While his “reckless, American-style” approach to business has been criticized by the French press in the past, The Telegraph described him as a man of refined taste: he is a classical pianist, art collector, and noted philanthropist. The French billionaire donated about $212 million in 2019 to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after it was hit by a massive fire.

And unlike Musk, Arnault prefers to stay under the radar. After some Twitter accounts began tracking the private jets of French billionaires to raise awareness of climate change, Arnault chose to sell his private jet.

“Actually, with all these stories, the group had a plane and we sold it,” Arnault told a radio station owned by LVMH. “The result now is that no one can see where I’m going because I charter planes when I use private jets.”

Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor covering politics and healthcare policy at Yahoo Finance. You can follow her on Twitter @employee Contact her at adriana@yahoofinance.com.

Aarthi is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @employee.

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