Bernard Arnault, the world’s richest person, had $11.2 billion wiped from his fortune in one day over concerns that a softening US economy will dampen demand for luxury goods.
The founder of LVMH — whose offerings include Louis Vuitton handbags, Moet & Chandon champagne and Christian Dior gowns — had seen his wealth balloon for most of 2023 as share prices of European luxury companies surged.
LVMH shares fell 5 percent in Paris — the most in more than a year — amid a broader decline that erased about $US30 billion from the European luxury sector.
Even with the selloff, the French billionaire still has a net worth of $191.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’s added $29.5 billion so far this year.
Bloomberg reports that the gap between the fortunes of Arnault and Tesla’s Elon Musk, the world’s second-richest person, has shrunk to just $11.4 billion.
For a growing crowd of investors, LVMH and its French luxury rivals have been to the European stock market what big tech has been to the United States: dominant businesses whose growth holds up even as the economy waxes and wanes, says Bloomberg.
Shares of LVMH and Hermes International have on average returned more than 20 percent annually the past decade, while the Stoxx Europe 600 Index lags at 8.3 percent annually.
Arnault’s rise to the top of the billionaires’ list
In April 1999, Arnault became the richest person in fashion, topping Zara’s Amancio Ortega. In 2016, Arnault was paid €7.8 million as the CEO of the LVMH group.
In July 2019, Arnault became the second-richest man in the world, with a net worth of $103 billion. Arnault briefly surpassed Jeff Bezos to become the richest person in the world in December 2019, and again for a short time in January 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Arnault saw his wealth shrink by $30 billion as sales of luxury goods plummeted.
On 5 August 2021, he regained the status of the wealthiest man in the world, with his net worth climbing to $198.4 billion. This occurred as sales of LVMH’s luxury goods surged in China and other parts of Asia.
He is listed as “Bernard Arnault & family” on the Forbes Billionaires list. Forbes estimated the Bernard Arnault & family fortune to be $158 billion in 2022, positioning him ahead of Bill Gates.
Arnault owned the 70 m (230 ft) converted research vessel Amadeus, which was sold in late 2015. His current 101.5 m (333 ft) yacht Symphony was built in the Netherlands by Feadship.
Arnault and his family have an estimated peak net worth of US$240.7 billion in April 2023 according to Forbes, making him the richest person in the world, surpassing Elon Musk.