Who is Bernard Arnault? LVMH Boss Overtakes Bill Gates to Become World's Second Richest Person

French luxury goods mogul Bernard Arnault has beaten Microsoft founder Bill Gates to second place on a list of the world's richest people. Arnault trumped the software entrepreneur and philanthropist to the runner-up spot on Bloomberg's Billionaires List, the publication reported.

This is the first time Gates has fallen below second place in the daily ranking's seven-year history. Bloomberg attributed the drop to his extensive philanthropic giving, and to Arnault's rapidly increasing wealth.

Both billionaires sit behind Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, who has an estimated net worth of $125 billion, according to Bloomberg. Gates has a net worth of approximately $107 billion, just shy of Arnault's estimated $108 billion, the publication noted.

Arnault, full name Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault, is chairman and chief executive of the world's largest luxury goods business, LVMH.

Born in Roubaix in northern France in 1949, the 70-year-old businessman began his career at his father's construction company. After moving into real estate and holiday accommodation, he became CEO and president of the family business in the 1970s.

In 1984, Arnault bought struggling retailing, fashion and manufacturing company Agache-Willot-Boussac and renamed it Financière Agache, The New York Times previously reported. Arnault transformed the company's fortunes and began purchasing other businesses in the fashion world.

Meanwhile, major luxury goods companies Moet Hennessy and Vuitton merged to form LVMH Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton SE. LVMH executive Henry Racamier soon asked Arnault to come on board amid reported internal tensions.

Arnault bought shares in the company and helped mediate between Moet Hennessy and Louis Vuitton executives. He eventually amassed enough shares to block a break-up of the company. Arnault was named chairman of the executive management board in January 1989, as The New York Times noted.

Over the next few years, he acquired big names like Marc Jacobs, Sephora and DKNY. As of 2018, LVMH is a multi-billion dollar empire employing more than 145,000 employees. Earlier this year, Forbes called Arnault one of the world's "ultimate taste-makers."

Outside of fashion and other luxury goods, Arnault has also invested in tech companies, including Netflix, and even a yacht company.

He made headlines back in April when his company pledged millions to help rebuild Parisian cathedral Notre Dame after a devastating fire. He defended the move after critics questioned the motivations of corporations funding the campaign.

Per Reuters, Arnault called such criticisms "an empty controversy." He added: "It's pretty dismaying to see that in France you are criticized even for doing something for the general interest."

Bernard Arnault, Richest Person
Chairman and chief executive of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, Bernard Arnault, attends an awards event in Paris on May 17, 2019. Arnault was recently named the second-richest person in the world, overtaking Microsoft founder Bill Gates. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty