Who is Bernard Arnault?
Arnault is the face behind LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), a luxury empire that includes not just the three iconic brands in the company’s name but also such revered fashion houses as Christian Dior, Fendi and Givenchy.
Other brands you may recognize include Dom Pérignon champagne, Sephora cosmetics — and just this past January, his company acquired Tiffany & Co. for $15.8 billion.
His father, Jean Arnault, made his fortune in construction, and the younger Arnault started his career working for him, eventually taking over as president in 1979.
Five years later, for $15 million, he bought up Boussac Saint-Frères, a company whose assets included Christian Dior. Then, in 1988, he maneuvered to take a majority stake in LVMH.
By the mid-’90s, LVMH’s value had multiplied 15 times over, and sales and profits increased fivefold.
How did he become the world’s richest man?
Forbes’ list of top billionaires has long been populated by American names, but Arnault made it into the top 10 back in 2005.
He inched his way to the top five by 2018, and a year later, he clinched the top three with a $76 billion fortune.
Even the pandemic — which put an end to retail shopping, fancy galas and international travel — couldn't derail his trip to the top.
Luxury sales have recovered surprisingly quickly, particularly as conditions improve in China, and LVMH’s stock price continues to soar.
In late May, LVMH’s stock rose 0.4% in the first hours of trading, adding $600 million to Arnault’s personal fortune and knocking Amazon's Bezos off his pedestal.
Arnault and Bezos have traded places a few times, but at time of writing, Bezos is firmly in the No. 2 spot with a net worth of "just" $190 billion.
How to invest in the world's richest
LVMH stock isn’t traded on the major U.S. exchanges. But that doesn’t mean you can’t buy in.
One way to get shares is by way of the company’s unsponsored ADR, or American depositary receipt, which is a U.S.-bank-issued certificate that can be traded like regular stock.
The ADR is only available on the over-the-counter market, though, which is more complicated to navigate than the markets you're probably used to.
A much easier way to grab some LVMH stock is through any of the luxury-themed ETFs that include LVMH.
With modern investing apps, it’s simple to add any ETF to your portfolio. Once your portfolio is set up, some apps will even automatically invest your “spare change” so your money is always growing in the background.
And if you want to spread out your risk by investing in Arnault’s rivals for world’s richest, you can always buy a bit of Amazon, Tesla or Berkshire Hathaway. Full shares in those companies cost $3,293, $717 and $432,900, as of this writing — but with fractional shares you can spend however much you like.
Where to go from there
If you’re keen to get into investing like a luxury tycoon, but there’s not much room in your budget right now, you have a few options to find some extra funds.
Bundle up your debt. If you’re struggling to pay off multiple debts and high interest rates, consider rolling your debts into one. You can chip away at your debt faster with a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.
Slash your insurance premiums. When was the last time you looked around for a better price on your auto insurance? If it’s been a while, it may be costing you more than $1,000 extra every year. Shop around to ensure you’re paying the best possible rate. And while you’re at it, use the same technique to save hundreds on health insurance, too.
Save big without clipping coupons. Even if you’ve trimmed your budget down to the bare necessities, you’ll still need to stock up on essentials here and there. When that time comes, use a free browser extension that will scour the internet for better prices and coupons.
Fine art as an investment
Stocks can be volatile, cryptos make big swings to either side, and even gold is not immune to the market’s ups and downs.
That’s why if you are looking for the ultimate hedge, it could be worthwhile to check out a real, but overlooked asset: fine art.
Contemporary artwork has outperformed the S&P 500 by a commanding 174% over the past 25 years, according to the Citi Global Art Market chart.
And it’s becoming a popular way to diversify because it’s a real physical asset with little correlation to the stock market.
On a scale of -1 to +1, with 0 representing no link at all, Citi found the correlation between contemporary art and the S&P 500 was just 0.12 during the past 25 years.
Earlier this year, Bank of America investment chief Michael Harnett singled out artwork as a sharp way to outperform over the next decade — due largely to the asset’s track record as an inflation hedge.
Investing in art by the likes of Banksy and Andy Warhol used to be an option only for the ultrarich. But with a new investing platform, you can invest in iconic artworks just like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates do.