Louis Vuitton (LVMH) boss Bernard Arnault, 70, overtook Bill Gates to become the second richest person in the world, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index announced Wednesday—and he did it in style.
The French businessman, who is the force behind many of the biggest names in luxury, pushed to the second spot after a stellar year for LVMH, which saw company shares rise 43%. His net worth is now estimated at $107.6 billion—an increase of $39.1 billion in a single year.
This remains way short of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ $124 billion fortune. Yet Europe’s richest person—whose fortune is estimated to be equivalent to 3% of France’s GDP—is one of only three members in the ultra-exclusive centibillionaire’s club.
But just who is Bernard Arnault? And how did he make his fortune? More importantly, how does he manage to spend all that cash?
A fateful taxi ride
After studying engineering at the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique in Paris and graduating in 1971, Arnault joined his family’s construction company, Ferret-Savinel, as an engineer. Yet it was a chance meeting in New York that proved to have a far more dramatic impact.
Sitting in a yellow cab, Arnault asked the driver what he knew of France. “He could not name the president but he knew Dior,” Arnault recently told the Financial Times. ...
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