Billionaire fashion tycoon set to overtake Jeff Bezos as world’s richest person

For many years, Microsoft founder Bill Gates was the richest person alive. Lately, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos pipped him for the title, partly because Gates had spent so much of his colossal fortune on charitable works.

Then financial changes at Microsoft – and Bezos’s expensive divorce – put Gates back in the number one spot.

More recently Bezos moved back into the lead.

But coming up on the rails is a surprise contender that you might never have heard of.

Bernard Arnault, head of a global fashion empire that includes luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and Bulgari, is about become richer than both the only shopping king and the software innovator.

M. Arnault’s company, LVMH, has lined up a deal to buy iconic jewellers Tiffany in a $16.2bn (£12.6bn) transaction.

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The move has increased M. Arnault’s personal wealth, and now, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the 70-year-old fashion tycoon has a net worth of $103 billion just behind Mr Bezos who has $111 billion and Gates with $110 billion.

That makes him wealthier than 88 of the world's nations.

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M Arnault’s wealth comes his family’s 47% shareholding in LVMH, which also owns Fendi, Céline, Kenzo and Marc Jacobs.

The company’s shares have risen steadily in value over the past couple of years and the Tiffany deal has seen another sharp uptick in their value.

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As long as M. Arnault’s new management team can reverse Tiffany’s profit slump and find a way of making the classic brand relevant to a new, younger, clientele that share price rise should send him past gates and Bezos in fairly short order.

M Arnault joined his dad’s company in 1971, re-focusing it from a building company to a property management group. His rise into the circles of the hyper-rich began when he bought legendary fashion house Christian Dior in 1987 and he built LVMH into a global force to be reckoned with through the 1990s.

He’s a noted art collector, with a collection including works by Picasso, Yves Klein, Henry Moore, and Andy Warhol, and he pledged €200 million to help repair the Notre-Dame cathedral after a fire earlier this year.

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