Bernard Arnault
Bernard Arnault with pop star and partner Rihanna. GETTY IMAGES FOR FENTY

Bernard Arnault is now the world’s second-richest person, according to Forbes’ calculations. The luxury goods titan behind such brands as Louis Vuitton and Moet & Chandon is worth $103.2 billion as of around noon today, up from $76 billion in March when Forbes published our annual billionaire rankings. At the time he was the fourth-richest person on the planet. His fortune, which hit $100 billion for the first time in June, has been propelled up by record-setting shares of his conglomerate LVMH, which are up just over 50% since the start of the year.

As of Thursday, Arnault is worth $300 million more than Bill Gates, who is now worth $102.9 billion. It’s the first time since 2008 that Gates has not been either the first or second richest person in the world. Microsoft shares, too, have been hitting record highs, but they have not kept pace with LVMH. Plus Gates now holds the majority of his fortune outside of Microsoft. Jeff Bezos remains number one, with a net worth of roughly $124 billion, after subtracting shares of Amazon that will soon belong to his ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos.

While it seems unlikely that Arnault could catch Bezos, both men have most of their fortunes tied up in their companies’ respective stocks, and another jump by LVMH and dip by Amazon could quickly close the gap. After all, Arnault’s fortune has already grown by $27 billion in the past four months.

To put these gains and his jump in wealth into perspective, consider this: Only five people in the world have officially ranked first or second richest in our annual billionaire rankings since 2001: Bezos, Gates, Warren Buffett, Zara’s Amancio Ortega and Mexico’s telecom titan Carlos Slim Helu.

Behind Arnault’s boom is the fact that high-end buyers continue to pick up luxury goods around the world. LVMH reported record sales and profits of roughly $52.5 billion and $11.2 billion for fiscal year 2018. Sales were up again 16% in the first quarter, to $14 billion. Profits, which are reported semiannually, will be announced in late July.

Source: Forbes

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