And then there were three.
Europe’s richest person, Frenchman Bernard Arnault, has joined Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft founder and CEO Bill Gates in one of the world’s most exclusive clubs — $100 billion in personal wealth.
Arnault, 70, is the chairman of LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE), a diversified luxury goods group, and he climbed into the “centibillionaires club” Tuesday after the company rose nearly 3% to 368.80 euros a share. Arnault’s net worth has increased nearly $32 billion this year alone, the most of any of the 500-member Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
France’s multibillionaires’ personal wealth has grown the most from the European sect of Bloomberg’s rankings for 2019. Arnault, Kering SA’s Francois Pinault and cosmetic heir Francoise Bettencourt Meyers have added $40 billion to their personal wealth between them.
Chanel, a fragrance and fashion house, also reported its 2018 results, catapulting the fortunes of brothers Gerard and Alain Wertheimer up nearly $10 billion amid much civil unrest over wealth inequality in France, which has seen riots by the so-called “yellow vest” protesters.
Arnault’s $100.4 billion fortune equals more than 3% of France’s economy, highlighting the extreme wealth gap in the country.
With tensions in France rising the past several months, beginning with fuel tax protests in late November, it hasn’t slowed Chinese consumers’ appetite for Louis Vuitton bags and Hennessey cognac, bolstering the bottom line for LVMH, which also owns Dom Perignon Champagne and Tag Heuer watches.
The company’s stock has risen 43% year to date, the third best performer on France’s CAC 40 Index.
Arnault’s family are among the French tycoons who have pledged more than $650 million to help rebuild the famous Notre Dame Cathedral after it was ravaged by fire.
Gates has donated more than $35 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, while Bezos’ personal wealth dropped $40 billion earlier this year after reaching a divorce settlement with his former wife MacKenzie Bezos.