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Luxury Goods Titan Bernard Arnault Becomes World’s Third $100 Billion Man

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One of the world’s ultimate taste-makers, Bernard Arnault entered an ultra-rarefied club this week. As of Thursday June 20, he was worth just over $100 billion, making him one of three people in the world with 12-figure fortunes.

He joins Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos, worth an estimated $157.5 billion, and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, worth an estimated $103.1 billion. Bezos, who first passed $100 billion in 2017, will soon give a slice of that fortune away.

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He and his wife, MacKenzie, are in the process of finalizing their divorce. The couple announced in early April that she will receive a quarter of his Amazon stake, currently valued at more than $37 billion. Gates reached $100 billion in April, thanks to strong earnings from Microsoft.

Arnault’s luxury goods group, LVMH Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton, has been having a great year. In April, it announced record first quarter sales and profits on top of a strong 2018. Its shares are up more than 40% so far in 2019, boosting Arnault’s fortune by more than $20 billion.With his family, he owns 46% of LVMH and serves as both its chairman and CEO.

The growth comes as high-end buyers around the world continue to pick up luxury goods and spirits, despite fears that demand, particularly in China, would slow down. Thirty-five years after Arnault first got into luxury goods with the purchase of Christian Dior, he continues to refresh LVMH by finding ways to appeal to a new generation of customers while retaining the traditional values and high quality that have defined its brands. 

That includes innovative partnerships like the two with Rihanna — Fenty Beauty and Fenty fashion house — as well as recent deals such as the acquisition of Belmond, which operates luxury hotels, trains and even safaris.

“People do not understand that success stems from the cohabitation of two contradictory spirits: the artist’s vision and the logic of worldwide marketing,” Arnault told Forbes in 1997. “It’s a very complex process.”

Forbes first wrote about Arnault in 1991 when he was worth $200 million. He has since been featured several times and has appeared on our cover. He made his debut in our Billionaires ranks in 1997. Some readers may know his story well but it’s one worth retelling.

READ MORE | Jeff Bezos To Give MacKenzie 25% Of His Amazon Stake, Worth Tens Of Billions, In Divorce

A native of France’s cold, flat industrial north, Arnault was a star student at France’s prestigious Ecole Polytechnique. The son of a construction tycoon, Arnault spent three years in the U.S. in the early 1980s trying to establish a branch of his family’s real estate business, Ferinel, as a developer of Florida vacation properties.

After three years he returned home. But he learned a valued lesson in America, according to a 1997 Forbes profile on Arnault. Before leaving, he sold his Mediterranean-style home facing Long Island Sound in New Rochelle, N.Y. to American tycoon John Kluge, owner of the mansion next door. Kluge tore it down because it blocked his view.

“It was just incredible!” Arnault told Forbes. “It was a very nice place, but two days after he bought it, he tore my house down! It’s so very…American.” Lesson learned: “When something has to be done,” says Arnault, “do it! In France we are full of good ideas, but we rarely put them into practice.”

He returned back to France ready to make some moves. In 1984, Arnault put up $15 million of his family’s money to rescue bankrupt textile empire Boussac (Lazard put up the rest). Among Boussac’s mixed bag assets was money-losing fashion house Christian Dior.

That became the first of many Arnault acquisitions and the cornerstone of his massive luxury goods empire. Over the years, LVMH snapped up such brands such as Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Sephora. Today LVMH has nearly $53 billion in sales from 70 brands and 4,590 retail stores.   

-Luisa Kroll; Forbes Staff

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Motsepe Family & Associates Join Rupert And Oppenheimer Families In Donating R1 billion To Deal With COVID-19 Pandemic

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On Monday South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that South Africa’s richest families the Rupert and Oppenheimer families had each contributed R1 billion to assist small businesses and their employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Today the Motsepe family has contributed R1 billion ($57mn). See full statement below.

The Motsepe Family in partnership with companies and organisations that they are associated with, have pledged R1 billion to assist with the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its related challenges that are confronting South Africa and the African Continent.

These companies and organisations are:
 Motsepe Foundation
 Sanlam
 African Rainbow Capital (ARC)
 African Rainbow Minerals (ARM)  and others

The Founder and Chairman of the Motsepe Foundation, Dr Patrice Motsepe said: “Several hundred million rands will immediately be made available with the primary objective of saving lives and slowing and restraining the spread of the Coronavirus. We are purchasing sanitisers, disinfectants, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and are in discussions with Government, health workers and other stakeholders to assist with acquiring other equipment and making resources available which are essential for dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic. We’ve been advised that access to water for regularly washing hands is crucial for slowing and limiting the spread of the Coronavirus. We are therefore providing water to poor rural and urban communities by purchasing water tanks (jojos), drilling and equipping for borehole water and also building sanitary facilities. The current lockdown has an impact on the goods, equipment and services that can be purchased immediately and the goods and services which can be provided when the lockdown has been terminated. Our short to medium term interventions include building additional classrooms, computer centers and laboratories in all the 9 provinces of South Africa to assist with the excessively high number of students per classroom in some schools; particularly in the context of the current Coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing requirements.

Those schools in the poor rural and urban areas which do not have internet access or facilities will be assisted with study guides, scientific calculators, dictionaries and other educational equipment and facilities identified in consultation with the Department of Basic Education, school principals and teachers. Poor and underdeveloped communities are ill-prepared to deal with the serious challenges and consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic and are in dire need of our assistance and contributions. We are committed to contribute to the provision of quality education, infrastructure and other facilities to better prepare and equip them to deal with future pandemics or catastrophes.”

We will be working in partnership with:
 traditional leaders, kings, queens and their communities that we have been working with for the past 20 years;
 the 34 Religious and Faith-Based organisations that participate in the annual Motsepe Foundation National Day of Prayer;
 National, Provincial and Local Government authorities;
 Trade Union and other Worker Representative organisations;
 NGOs and other local community representative organisations;
 sport organisations and entities;
 local, provincial and national business and professional organisations;
 black and white farmers and their representative organisations; and
 other organisations or structures that can assist or partner with us in dealing with the current Coronavirus pandemic.

The CEO of Sanlam Ian Kirk said: “Sanlam has a rich history of always putting our people, our clients and our country first; hence our mantra of ‘Doing well, by doing Good’. Today, we’re proud of the partnership with the Motsepe Family and its associated companies. We believe these efforts will make a meaningful contribution not only towards fighting the Coronavirus, but also in developing the long-term sustainability of South Africans, particularly in poor and rural areas. Periods of profound uncertainty like these call for us to come together to support all the prudent actions that contain the scourge of this virus and its impact on our already fragile economy.”

The CEO of ARC Dr Johan van Zyl said: “As a nation we are in unchartered waters in terms of the scale and danger that the COVID19 pandemic presents to South Africans. It is now time for each and everyone of us to demonstrate leadership and help. ARC is a fairly young company with limited financial resources. Yet, it remains important that we make a contribution. In this regard we are partnering with companies and organisations with which we have common interests and share common values to ensure that the positive impact we aim to make is felt.” We have been in contact with various Ministers and MECs and will also be in contact with the Government’s Coronavirus Solidarity Fund to identify specific initiatives and projects where we can partner and work together. There may be upliftment and developmental undertakings where they are better positioned than we are, in which case we may fund or donate with them on a particular project or partnership.

We want to thank Government for their leadership and cooperation including health workers, police, soldiers, as well as Religious and Faith-Based organisations, traditional leaders, trade union and other worker representative organisations, NGOs and other rural and urban organisations. We also want to thank business and in particular the Rupert and Oppenheimer families, the employees, boards and stakeholders of the companies that the Motsepe Family is associated with, for their assistance and contributions in dealing with the current Coronavirus pandemic.

South Africans have a history of uniting and working together when confronted with major and enormous challenges. We are confident that South Africa will in the medium to long term overcome the life-threatening and economic challenges caused by the Coronavirus pandemic and continue to build a bright and inclusive future for the people of South Africa and the African continent.

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How To Become A Billionaire: Nigeria’s Oil Baroness Folorunso Alakija On What Makes Tomorrow’s Billionaires

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One of only two female billionaires in Africa, with a net worth of $1 billion, Nigeria’s oil baroness Folorunso Alakija elaborates on the state of African entrepreneurship today.

The 69-year-old Folorunso Alakija is vice chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company with a stake in Agbami Oilfield, a prolific offshore asset. Famfa Oil’s partners include Chevron and Petrobras. Alakija’s first company was a fashion label. The Nigerian government awarded Alakija’s company an oil prospecting license in 1993, which was later converted to an oil mining lease. The Agbami field has been operating since 2008; Famfa Oil says it will likely operate through 2024. Alakija shares her thoughts to FORBES AFRICA on what makes tomorrow’s billionaires:

What is your take on the state of African entrepreneurship today? Is enough being done for young startups?

There are a lot of business opportunities in Africa that do not exist in other parts of the world, yet Africa is seen as a poor continent. The employment constraints in the formal sector in Africa have made it impossible for it to meet the demands of the continent’s working population of which over 60% are the youth. Therefore, it is imperative we harness the potential of Africa’s youth to engage in entrepreneurship and provide adequate assistance to enable them to succeed.

Several governments have been working to provide a conducive atmosphere which will promote entrepreneurship on the continent. However, there is still a lot more to be done in ensuring that the potential of these young entrepreneurs are maximized to the fullest. Some of the challenges young startups in Africa face are as follows: lack of access to finance/insufficient capital; lack of infrastructure; bureaucratic bottlenecks and tough business regulations; inconsistent government policies; dearth of entrepreneurial knowledge and skills; lack of access to information and competition from cheaper foreign alternatives.

It is therefore imperative that governments, non-governmental agencies, and the financial sectors work together to ameliorate these challenges itemized above.

The governments of African nations should provide and strengthen its infrastructure (power, roads and telecom); they should encourage budding entrepreneurs by ensuring that finance is available to businesses with the potential for growth and also commit to further improving their business environments through sustained investment; there must also be a constant push for existing policies and legislation to be reviewed to promote business activities.

These policies must also be enforced, and punitive measures put in place to deter offenders; government regulations should also be flexible to constantly fit the dynamics of the business environment; corruption and unethical behavior must be decisively dealt with and not treated with kid gloves. We must empower our judicial system to enable them to prosecute erring offenders with appropriate sanctions meted out. There should be no “sacred cows” or “untouchables”. The same law must be applied to all, no matter their state or position in the society; non-governmental organizations can also provide support for them through training and skills acquisition programs that will help build their capacity; they could also provide finance to grow their businesses; more mentorship programs should be encouraged, and incubators of young enterprises should be supported by public policy aimed at improving the quality of these youths and their ventures; and also, avenues should be created where young entrepreneurs will be able to connect, learn and share ideas with already successful well-established entrepreneurs.

What, according to you, are the attributes needed for tomorrow’s billionaires?

There is no overnight success. You must start by dreaming big and working towards achieving it. You must be determined to succeed despite all odds. Do not allow your setbacks or failures to stop you but rather make them your stepping stone. Develop your strengths to attain excellence and be tenacious, never give up on your dream or aspiration. Your word must be your bond. You must make strong ethical values and integrity your watchword. Always act professionally and this will enable you to build confidence in your customers and clients. 

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Mike Bloomberg Announces $40 Million Plan To Combat Coronavirus In Developing Countries

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Less than two weeks after withdrawing from the presidential race, Mike Bloomberg announced Tuesday that his Bloomberg Philanthropies is launching what it’s calling the Coronavirus Global Response Initiative, a $40 million plan to combat the spread of the coronavirus in vulnerable low and middle-income countries.

Bloomberg tweeted that the new initiative will particularly focus on Africa, which has 417 confirmed COVID-19 cases and seven deaths across the continent as of March 17. 

The new plan comes just days after the three-term New York City mayor announced the Coronavirus Local Response Initiative, which will mobilize mayors across the U.S. to fight the pandemic and keep their cities safe by providing them with virtual technical assistance, coaching, and accurate information. The first virtual meeting will take place on March 19, where more than 180 cities are expected to join experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.

“I know from my experience as mayor of New York City that giving public health professionals the tools to protect the public is vital to saving lives,” said Bloomberg in a statement, “and to help mitigate the kind of economic and social damage that could make this crisis even more debilitating for families and communities.”

The international initiative, which will work alongside The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s response to the virus in developing countries, will fund rapid response teams that will prevent and detect infections, train healthcare workers on the ground to control infections, develop lab networks to manage and transport specimens to central laboratories for diagnosis; measure acceptance and impact of containment strategies, provide communications support such as public education campaigns and provide technical expertise to global and regional health organizations.

Bloomberg’s tenure as the Mayor of New York City included fighting outbreaks in the U.S. such as the swine flu in 2009, which infected 60.8 million people and the outbreak of West Nile virus in 2012, which infected 5,674 people.

In a March 1 television ad for his campaign, Bloomberg addressed the country’s lack of preparedness for the then-epidemic, stating that “at times like this, it’s the job of the President to reassure the public that he or she is taking all the necessary steps to protect the health and well-being of every citizen.” He went on, “They want him or her to prepare for events like these in advance with teams of experts.”

Since then, the World Health Organization has declared the virus a global pandemic that has infected 196,000 people around the world and killed nearly 7,900. In its statement, Bloomberg Philanthropies will partner with Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and currently president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of global health organization Vital Strategies, along with the World Health Organization (WHO) to mitigate the virus.

“We have a window of time to partner with Ministries of Health in sub-Saharan Africa to protect their population from a disease that could kill through both infections and disruption of health services,” said Frieden.

Forbes estimates that Bloomberg, who is currently worth $45 billion and is the fourth biggest philanthropist in America has given away billions of dollars in recent years with a focus on climate change and global public health initiatives, including a $1.8 billion pledge to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater. Bloomberg Philanthropies says it distributed at least $3.3 billion last year.

Natalie Sachmechi, Forbes Staff, Billionaires

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