Who is Bernard Arnault, the richest person in the world who took the title from Elon Musk?

London (CNN) — Bernard Arnault, chairman of French luxury goods giant LVMH (LVMHF), has just become the first European to top Bloomberg’s list of the world’s richest people, relegating Elon Musk to second place.

Now worth $171 billion, Arnault’s wealth dwarfed the Tesla CEO’s $164 billion fortune on Tuesday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Arnault had already unseated Musk for the top spot on Forbes’ “Real-Time Billionaires” list last week.

Musk’s net worth has plummeted by $107 billion this year, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Arnault’s wealth, which derives from his majority stake in LVMH, has taken a more modest drop to $7 billion.

The divergence is partly due to the performance of the shares of the companies in which the pair owns shares. Musk’s purchase of Twitter hasn’t helped either. Still, he’s in no imminent danger of falling further down the list: His fortune remains comfortably larger than that of Indian billionaire Gautam Adani ($125 billion) and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ($116 billion), who they rank third and fourth on Bloomberg’s list.

While Tesla’s share price has plunged 54% this year, LVMH shares have held steady, supported by strong sales in the US and Europe. The luxury market has held relatively steady this year, even as rising inflation has prompted less wealthy shoppers to change their spending habits. LVMH has a market value of 362.4 billion euros ($386 billion).

Who is Bernard Arnault?

Bernard Arnault, billionaire and LVMH chairman, rose to the top of the global rich lists this month.

Born in Roubaix, in northern France, in 1949, Arnault graduated from the prestigious École Polytechnique, an engineering school in Paris. He began his career in the Ferret-Savinel family construction company, becoming president in 1978 after successive promotions.

Six years later, he learned that the French government was looking for a new investor to take over Boussac Saint-Freres. The bankrupt textile group owned a key asset: Christian Dior, a celebrated French fashion house.

Arnault bought control of the group, returned it to profitability and embarked on a strategy to develop the world’s leading luxury goods company. “In the process, he reinvigorated Christian Dior as the cornerstone of the new organization,” according to a biography on the LVMH website.

Arnault bought a majority stake in LVMH in 1989, two years after the group was formed through the merger of Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy. He has been the company’s president and CEO ever since.

Although his own name may not be immediately recognizable to many, the brands that Arnault has been instrumental in growing—from Christian Dior to Dom Pérignon—have become household names.

Over the past three decades, Arnault has built LVMH into a luxury goods powerhouse with 75 brands selling wine, spirits, fashion, leather goods, perfumes, cosmetics, watches, jewelry, luxury travel and hotel stays. He opened China’s first Louis Vuitton store in Beijing in 1992.

In January 2021, the group completed the US$15.8 billion acquisition of iconic American jeweler Tiffany & Co, the largest acquisition ever in the luxury industry.

Arnault’s philanthropic efforts are primarily through LVMH, which focuses its patronage on the arts and culture. In 2019, the group donated 200 million euros ($212 million) to help rebuild Notre Dame after a massive fire ripped through the Paris cathedral.

Arnault has long held the title of Europe’s richest person, but the 73-year-old keeps a much lower profile than Musk and is not personally active on any of the major social media platforms. In October, he told LVMH-owned Radio Classique that he sold his private jet because he had been shamed on Twitter for his frequent use of the plane.

Arnault is married with five children, all of whom currently work at LVMH or one of its brands, according to Bloomberg.

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