The Richest Man Alive Who Most People Know Nothing About

If you were to ask the average American who the richest person in the world is, many would likely say Elon Musk, Bill Gates or another American business magnate. After all, an American has held the title almost exclusively for much of the past several decades.

That is no longer the case. Bernard Arnault is a Frenchman running the largest empire of luxury goods in the world. His company, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) owns everything from Louis Vuitton and Sephora to Hennessy and Marc Jacobs.

Arnault was born in France in 1949 to a wealthy family and got his start in his family’s successful construction business. In 1984, Boussac Saint-Freres, owner of Christian Dior, was bankrupt and looking for a buyer. After putting up $15 million of his own money, Arnault raised the $80 million needed to purchase Boussac Saint-Freres, then focused on turning Christian Dior into the company it is today.

After several years of successfully growing Dior, Arnault had his sights on another luxury giant: LVMH. In 1989, Arnault became a majority shareholder of the luxury conglomerate, officially creating the world’s leading luxury products group, according to the LVMH website.

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Since then, LVMH has continued to purchase dozens of luxury brands in clothing, cologne and perfume, alcohol, watches and jewelry. Today, LVMH owns 75 luxury brands from Tiffany & Co. to Marc Jacobs, making it the most valuable luxury brand in the world.

What makes Arnault the richest man alive? He owns a 97.5% stake in Christian Dior SE, which controls 41.2% of LVMH. Given LVMH’s current market cap of $426 billion, that puts the value of his stock at nearly $175 billion. Forbes estimates his net worth to be in excess of $203 billion.

How to get involved: Many of the richest people on the planet, from Arnault to Musk, made their money building these companies into the multibillion-dollar giants they are today. But they build them into billion-dollar companies before they go public, effectively cutting everyday investors out of the deal.

Recent legislation has since made investing in startups and private deals like the ones that made Arnault his money legal and possible for everyday investors.

For example, Gameflip is a private startup currently raising funds on StartEngine. It has raised over $684,000 from everyday investors to ramp up its gaming and digital goods marketplace. It is experiencing explosive growth, hitting over a monthly record of more than $2.3 million in volume and thousands of new users in December.

These can be great diversification opportunities for a portfolio and give everyday investors exposure to the private markets.

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