Bernard Arnault’s Fortune Soars Past $200 Billion for First

Bernard Arnault’s net worth exceeded $200 billion for the first time, making him just the third person ever to reach such heights of personal wealth.

The French tycoon behind luxury-goods powerhouse LVMH saw his fortune increase by $2.4 billion on Tuesday to $201.1 billion, a record high, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He joins Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos as the only individuals to have ever exceeded $200 billion, and is the first person outside the US to accomplish the feat.

Arnault, 74, surpassed Musk as the world’s richest person for the first time in December, with his LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE empire holding up better than the tech fortunes that dominate the Bloomberg ranking of the 500 richest people globally. His net worth has climbed $39 billion this year as demand for high-end products remains resilient.

LVMH’s stock price is at a record, benefitting from announcing last month it would buy back as much as €1.5 billion ($1.6 billion) of its own shares. The company posted a record €79.2 billion in sales last year, with revenue surpassing €20 billion at its cash cow, Louis Vuitton, which named musician-turned-entrepreneur Pharrell Williams as its new menswear designer in February.

Investors will have an opportunity to see how strong demand for LVMH’s Dior and Tiffany products is when the group reports first-quarter sales later this month.

Many participants in a recent informal Bloomberg survey of M&A desks, fund managers and analysts expect Arnault’s group to snap up rivals in a tough competitive environment for smaller companies. The billionaire was once dubbed “a wolf in cashmere” by a descendant of the Hermès dynasty after he launched a failed bid to take over the competing luxury group.

By Jack Witzig

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