Bernard Arnault, the billionaire chairman and CEO of LVMH, the renowned conglomerate housing luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Sephora, has ascended to the top of the Forbes real-time billionaires list.  Arnault surpassed Elon Musk, who is currently in the second position. This shift in fortune has soared Arnault and his family’s net worth to an impressive $207.8 billion, following a substantial $23.6 billion surge on January 26, 2024. In contrast to Arnault, Musk’s fortune now stands at $204.5 billion. 

The change in leadership of the top position of the billionaire hierarchy coincides with Tesla’s tumultuous performance in the stock market. On Thursday, January 25, Tesla shares experienced a significant dip of 13%, resulting in a staggering $18 billion loss in Elon Musk’s net worth. Meanwhile, LVMH’s stock value soared by an impressive 13%, fueled by reports of robust sales. This rise in stock price propelled the company’s market capitalization to $388.8 billion. 

Arnault and Musk have been in a riveting battle for the top spot of the Forbes real-time billionaires list for over two years. This battle was marked by fluctuations in their respective fortunes but Musk managed to secure the first position in the list for a few years in a row. In late 2022, Arnault briefly claimed the apex position following a sell-off in tech stocks. This was majorly driven by weakened global economic indicators due to the pandemic. 

The recent surge in Arnault’s wealth, particularly the noteworthy $23.6 billion increase in January 2024 can be attributed to LVMH’s robust quarterly performance. Notably, in 2021, LVMH executed the largest luxury brand acquisition in history by acquiring Tiffany & Co., an American luxury jewelry brand, for nearly $16 billion. 

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Beyond the realm of luxury goods, Arnault’s influence extends to the venture capital landscape. This is evident as his venture capital firm, Aglaé Ventures is backed by his holding company, Agache. Aglaé Ventures has strategically invested in prominent business entities in the virtual entertainment world such as Netflix and ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, diversifying Arnault’s portfolio and enhancing his financial standing. 

The most interesting facet of Arnault’s legacy is his commitment to familial succession within LVMH. With all five of his children actively involved in the company, Arnault recently fortified long-term control over the brand by his family, appointing two of his sons to the LVMH board. This major step was complemented by the existing presence of two other children. 

Bernard Arnault’s ascent to the pinnacle of the Forbes real-time billionaires list symbolizes the culmination of strategic business acumen and a steadfast commitment to familial legacy within the realm of luxury goods. 

Besides Bernard Arnault and Elon Musk holding the top spots on Forbes’ real-time billionaires list, other notable figures have also made waves in the upper ranks. Jeff Bezos, the mastermind behind Amazon, claims third place, while Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has secured the fourth spot. Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle Corporation, is on the list’s fifth position. Further down the list, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Steve Ballmer, and Sergey Brin command their places among the elite billionaires.