Bernard Arnault, the CEO of the French luxury retail chain Luis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, or LVMH for short — has been vying for first place in the global personal wealth rankings all this spring. He currently sits in the second spot, with $186.3 billion, behind only Jeff Bezos and in front of Elon Musk.
Arnault’s LVMH owns over 70 luxury brands, everything from Tiffany and Givenchy to Christian Dior. Much of those billions will be coming from that narrow slice of humanity that marketers to the super-rich have dubbed “ultra-high net worth individuals,” affluents who hold at least $30 million in net worth. Global wealth researchers at Knight Frank count some 520,000 of these ultras. LVMH, for its part, counts on their profligacy. The world’s wealthy have found themselves with the wherewithal to buy enough luxury to make Arnault the world’s leading purveyor of nonessential amenities the richest man on the face of the Earth.
Arnault, naturally, has a yacht. His 333-foot Symphony cost him $150 million a few years back and features a glass-bottom swimming pool on the main deck. Yachts this enormous require a sizeable outlay for annual expenses. Keeping the Symphony afloat, for instance, takes a 27-person crew. Owners of super yachts need to spend 10 percent of their boat’s purchase price on annual operating costs. Arnault is most likely spending $15 million a year to keep his superyacht in preparedness. Well over 99 percent of the world’s population, we should probably keep in mind, will labour their entire lives and not come close to ever amassing $15 million.
Germany’s Bremerhaven shipyard in March launched an eight-deck 476-foot-long superyacht that set billionaire Roman Abramovich back $610 million. Abramovich has a nearly $20-billion net worth. If his investments return a modest 5 percent this year, he can pay for his 476-footer and still end the year comfortably richer than he rated when the year started.