France’s richest person Bernard Arnault, who owns the parent company of Louis Vuitton, Sephora and Moët & Chandon Champagne, recently became the third ever “centibillionaire” in the world, joining the ranks of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and retired Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. He is also first person outside the tech industry to achieve a net worth of over $100 billion.
Then, in less than a month, Arnault’s net worth continued to grow so quickly that he officially surpassed Gates on Tuesday to become the world’s second wealthiest person—after shares of his luxury conglomerate LVMH, trading on the Paris exchange, jumped to a new record high.
Arnault’s net worth currently stands at $107 billion, about $200 million ahead of Gates, while still $20 billion behind Bezos.
Per Bloomberg’s calculation, Arnault is getting richer faster than anyone else on the list of the world’s 500 richest people. In 2019 so far, the 70-year-old tycoon has gained $39 billion in paper worth, thanks to his 50 percent ownership in LVMH and 97 percent stake in Christian Dior, whose shares are also traded on the Paris exchange.
By contrast, Gates’ net worth is much less tied to equity ownership in a public company. Since his retirement in 2000, Gates has gradually reduced his stake in Microsoft from 24 percent to just 1.3 percent and transferred most of his equity ownership to his philanthropic vehicle, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (Gates held the top spot on the list of the world’s billionaires for 18 years before Bezos dethroned him in 2017.)
Meanwhile, Arnault is just starting to establish his presence on the charity circuit. In April, his family pledged €200 million ($226 million) toward the restoration of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after the cultural landmark was seriously damaged in a fire. However, since then, only €10 million ($11.2 million) of his committed funding has been released, Observer recently reported, as the reconstruction committee and big donors disagree on how the money should be spent.