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Great Fortunes Are Built on Great Tech. Or Handbags and Bubbly

Bernard Arnault of LVMH is odd man out among the techie multibillionaires.


Photographer: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

You can tell a lot about a society by whom it makes rich. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg—four of the five wealthiest people in the world by Bloomberg’s tally—all made their money as technologists and engineers. They’ve transformed lives through digital commerce, electric cars, software, and social media, respectively. Judging by their success, technology is the one world-changing, fortune-making engine of the day.

But wait. Who’s that in third place on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, behind Bezos and Musk but ahead of Gates and Zuckerberg?  It’s Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest maker of luxury goods. He is a purveyor of sparkling wine, leather goods, clothing, jewelry, watches, and perfume. These are products that have existed—in less glamorous forms, to be sure—for hundreds or even thousands of years. They’re at the cutting edge of fashion, but they’re definitely not of technology.