At the turn of the new year, a seemingly less familiar face has emerged as the world’s richest person.
With the collapse of Elon Musk’s wealth and the sharp decline in Jeff Bezos’ fortune, a less likely candidate has taken their spot as the wealthiest person in the world – Bernard Arnault.
Arnault is neither a Silicon Valley entrepreneur nor even an American citizen. He is a French fashionista whose taste for the finer things in life has brought him incredible wealth.
He is the chairman and CEO of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), a multinational luxury goods conglomerate. His 48% stake in the company is the basis of his net worth, which is currently around $165 billion.
The 73-year-old has been involved in the fashion and luxury goods industry for many years and has played a significant role in the growth and success of LVMH.
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The New Richest Person in World is a Fashionista Mogul
Arnault started out his career at his father’s construction company before venturing into the luxury industry in the 1980s when he acquired stakes in several high-end brands, including Christian Dior and Hennessy. Arnault eventually merged these brands and others under the umbrella of LVMH in 1987, and he has continued to grow the conglomerate ever since.
The luxury empire now spans 75 labels selling apparel, alcohol, perfumes, cosmetics, watches, jewelry, luxury travel, and high-end accommodation. In January 2021, LVMH acquired iconic New York-based jeweler Tiffany & Co for over $15 billion – the conglomerate’s biggest-ever takeover.
Arnault is known for his keen business acumen and ability to spot and nurture new talent. Yet he likes to keep out of the public eye and is not well known outside Europe and the fashion world. However, he is known to have supported various cultural institutions, donating millions to the restoration of Notre Dame cathedral, for instance, and the renovation of the Louvre Museum. He is reportedly a keen tennis player and enjoys music and collecting fine art.
The past year may have worked out well for Arnault, but it could have been more kind to his billionaire peers.
According to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index – a daily ranking of the world’s wealthiest people – the ultra-rich had a rough time in 2022. The steep losses dampened many of the enormous gains they made during the pandemic, with the planet’s richest 500 individuals together losing an eye-popping $1.4 trillion over the year, per Bloomberg.
Yet while 2022’s bear market was painful for many of the world’s top ten wealthiest individuals, some fared better than others.
Tech tycoons bled the most. Tesla CEO Elon Musk lost one of the largest sums of money in recent history – over $200 billion – equivalent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Greece. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, formerly the world’s wealthiest person, started the year with almost $200 billion – his net worth is now much closer to half that sum.
Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (“CZ”) also felt the crypto winter bite, with his total net worth nosediving from around $90 billion in January to end the year at approximately $12 billion. Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg saw his wealth drop by almost two-thirds over the year. All told, the four men’s cumulative net worth plummeted by nearly $400 billion over the year.
Not Every Billionaire Suffered
Yet some bucked the trend, like Gautam Adani – India’s richest person – whose fortune increased by $44 billion, making him the third wealthiest person in the world. As the owner of a vast conglomerate, Adani’s assets are mainly in energy, resources, logistics, infrastructure, and agribusiness.
Warren Buffett is another whose net worth weathered the 2022 storm. Starting with $109 billion in early January, the Oracle of Omaha’s net worth fluctuated over the year. Still, it ended almost right back where it started at $107 billion – a tiny setback compared to many of Buffet’s mega-wealthy peers.
Meanwhile, several of the world’s wealthiest families, including the Koch and the Mars families, actually saw an increase in their overall wealth.
Last year’s wild rollercoaster ride for billionaires may remain unfathomable to average Americans. The incredible yoyo-ing of the rich lists may resemble the dramatic rise and fall of A-list stars and celebrities and grab plenty of media headlines, but this is not the only form of wealth there is.
A More Consistent Path to Attainable Wealth
The secret lives of dividend millionaires, who keep compounding their assets gradually over many decades, have shown many the way to a more consistent and secure path to wealth. Despite the allure of Silicon Valley, in truth, the fortunes of tech billionaires remain out of reach for most of the population. However, slow and steady investing in high-dividend stocks is accessible to the vast majority of people and can be a sound way to build long-term wealth. But it is vitally important to carefully consider your investment strategy and thoroughly research any stocks before making any investment decisions.
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Liam Gibson is a Taiwan-based freelance journalist who covers tech, geopolitics and finance. He has written for Al Jazeera, Nikkei Asia Review, South China Morning Post, Straits Times, National Interest, and has appeared in Fortune Magazine, and several other international media outlets.