Europe's Top 20 Billionaires

With $41 billion, France's Bernard Arnault tops this list

Published: Mar 26, 2012

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Bernard Arnault
GLOBAL RANKING: 4
$41 BILLION
 FRANCE, Luxury Goods

The ultimate arbiter of good taste orchestrated another stellar year at his luxury-goods empire, LVMH. Net profits jumped 22%, thanks to record sales at Louis Vuitton and the successful integration of Bulgari. The group formed a JV with one of the world’s leading tanneries of crocodile leather, Heng Long. Arnault hasn’t done as well with his more pedestrian investment in supermarket chain Carrefour, which is worth $1 billion less than it was a year ago. Among his personal high-end collection: He owns Indigo Island in the Bahamas (rent: $300,000 a week) and ski chalet Cheval Blanc in Courchevel.

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Amancio Ortega
GLOBAL RANKING: 5
$37.5 BILLION
 SPAIN, Zara

Ortega stepped down as chairman of his global fashion firm, Inditex, in January 2011, but the company hasn’t missed a beat. Shares are up 24% since then, helping boost his fortune by $6.5 billion and pushing him into the global top 5 ranks for the first time. Ortega paid $536 million in December for Torre Picasso, a 43-storey skyscraper in Madrid. He also owns Epic Residences & Hotel, a luxury 54-storey waterfront condo and hotel development in Miami. His daughter Marta, who works for Inditex, married Spanish equestrian star Sergio Alvarez Moya in February.

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Stefan Persson
GLOBAL RANKING: 8
$26 BILLION
 SWEDEN, H&M

His cheap-chic apparel chain H&M added Versace and Marni to its stable of designers last year and opened its first stores in Croatia, Singapore and Romania. It now has 2,500 shops in 43 countries. Persson, who is chairman, bought 5 million additional shares of the company and then gifted 4 million, worth $150 million, to a new employee incentive programme.

Karl Albrecht
GLOBAL RANKING: 10
$25.4 BILLION
 GERMANY, Supermarkets

His $39 billion (estimated sales) discount-supermarket giant, Aldi Sud, has some 4,500 stores, including 1,200 across 32 US states. It opened its first New York City locations in 2011, one in Queens and another in the Bronx. To keep costs low, Aldi stores do not accept credit cards.

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Liliane Bettencourt
GLOBAL RANKING: 15
$24 BILLION
 FRANCE, L’Oreal

The L’Oréal heiress, who suffers from dementia, had her fortune placed under the guardianship of her daughter Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers in 2011 following a very public 3-year legal battle. She was forced to resign from L’Oréal’s board in February; her 25-year-old grandson Jean-Victor Meyers took her seat.

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Berthold & Theo   
 Jr. Albrecht
GLOBAL RANKING: 32
$17.8 BILLION
 GERMANY, Supermarkets

Brothers own US discount gourmet retailer Trader Joe’s, which added 17 more locations in the past year for a total of 367. Back home they are spending a reported record sum renovating their Aldi Nord supermarkets.

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Michele Ferrero
 & family
GLOBAL RANKING: 23
$19 BILLION
 ITALY, Candy

Ferrero’s son Pietro Jr., longtime co-CEO of the family’s confectionery business, died in April from an apparent heart attack while cycling in South Africa. Surviving son Giovanni, who ran the business with his brother for more than a decade, is now sole CEO of family’s $9.5 billion (estimated sales) Ferrero, whose brands include Nutella, Tic Tacs, Kinder chocolate eggs and Ferrero Rocher hazelnut chocolates.

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Alisher Usmanov
GLOBAL RANKING: 28
$18.1 BILLION
 RUSSIA, Diversified

Usmanov is Russia’s richest citizen for the first time. The gap may widen when Facebook goes public. He has a stake in the social network, as well as in Zynga and Groupon, through DST Global, the investment firm he bankrolled. The vast bulk of his fortune is still held in iron ore and steel producer Metalloinvest, which got a boost in 2011 when it refinanced its debt. He also owns the biggest Russian business daily, Kommersant.

Michael Otto & family
GLOBAL RANKING: 34
$17.6 BILLION
 GERMANY, Retail

His family’s Otto Group is the world’s second-biggest Internet retailer after Amazon, selling everything from clothes to building supplies. He and 4 siblings own 13 million square feet of US real estate, including 900 Third Avenue and 60 Wall Street in Manhattan. Brother Alexander manages their shopping centre outfit, ECE Group. Father Werner Otto, who founded the business, died in December 2011 at age 102.


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Alexei MordashoV
GLOBAL RANK: 45
$15.3 BILLION
 RUSSIA, Steel

Boss of steelmaker Severstal sold 3 loss-making US steel plants to Renco Group for $1.2 billion in May 2011, half of what he paid for them in 2008. He held on to 2 plants in Columbus, Mississippi and Dearborn, Michigan. Severstal secured a $730 million loan from the US Department of Energy to refurbish and expand the Dearborn operations. He increased his stake in equipment maker Power Machines, buying a 25% stake from Siemens last year. He now plans to spin off Severstal’s gold-mining assets, combining them into his Nord Gold, which is set to go public on the LSE.

 

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Rinat Akhmetov
GLOBAL RANK: 39
$16 BILLION
 UKRAINE, Steel

Son of a coal miner, Akhmetov has been taking advantage of Ukraine’s recent privatisation auctions, picking up 5 coal and energy outfits in the past year. His DTEK already controls over 60% of coal production and energy generation in Ukraine. He owns the FC Shakhtar Donetsk soccer club, which plays in the $400 million Donbass Arena he built for them in 2009. It will host 5 games of the UEFA Euro Cup this summer. Parliamentarian is considering stepping down in the next election.

Vladimir Potanin
GLOBAL RANK: 46
$14.5 BILLION
 RUSSIA, Metals

Potanin is trying to regain full control of Norilsk Nickel, the metals giant he ran together with Mikhail Prokhorov for 13 years. Prokhorov’s stake is now owned by Oleg Deripaska, who bought it in 2008, when the partnership fell apart. Potanin also controls Russia’s largest media group, ProfMedia, owner of magazines, radio stations, movie theaters.

Birgit Rausing & family
GLOBAL RANK: 50
$14 BILLION
 SWEDEN, Packaging

She and her 3 children inherited packaging giant Tetra Laval after her husband’s death in 2000. The company’s breakthrough aseptic packaging technology makes it possible to store beverages like milk and orange juice without refrigeration; some criticise the innovation for being difficult to recycle. The family keeps a low profile, which may have something to do with the 1989 attempted kidnapping of Birgit’s son Jörn.
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Vladimir Lisin
GLOBAL RANK: 41
$15.9 BILLION
 RUSSIA, Steel, Transport

The former steelworker lost $8.1 billion as lower steel prices and demand cut the share price of his Novolipetsk Steel by 45%. He also closed money-losing newspaper Gazeta. Meanwhile, he’s shifting his attention to transportation. Since 2007, he’s bought shares in several seaports and shipping groups. In October, he paid $4.2 billion for control of First Cargo, Russia’s biggest railway operator. He built one of the largest shooting-range complexes in Europe, Lisya Nora.
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Vagit Alekperov
GLOBAL RANK: 56
$13.5 BILLION
 Russia, Oil

Head of Lukoil, Russia’s largest independent energy company, which is developing the giant West Qurna-2 oilfield in Iraq, one of the largest deposits in the world. Penned a book called Oil of Russia: Past, Present and Future.
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Mikhail Fridman
GLOBAL RANK: 57
$13.4 BILLION
 Russia, Diversified

He and his partners blocked the formation of another JV between BP and Russian state company Rosneft. After that, BP tried to buy out its Russian partners in TNK-BP for $32 billion, but the government blocked the deal. Meanwhile, his Vimpelcom bought the telecom holdings of Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris to become the sixth-biggest telecom company in the world.
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Mikhail Prokhorov
GLOBAL RANK: 58
$13.2 BILLION
 Russia, Diversified

The New Jersey Nets owner shocked the world when he jumped into Russia’s 2012 presidential race against strongman Vladimir Putin. Prokhorov, who was not expected to win the March 4 election, ran a mostly tame campaign, with two notable exceptions: Rapping on television and promising to free jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The 6-foot-8 bachelor and martial arts buff, who plans to move his basketball team to Brooklyn, lost nearly $5 billion in 12 months as the value of his publicly traded gold and metal holdings fell.

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Susanne Klatten
GLOBAL RANK: 59
$13 BILLION
 GERMANY, BMW

BMW heiress inherited a stake in automaker from her late father, Herbert Quandt, who had rescued it from bankruptcy. A trained economist with an MBA, she controls chemicals maker Altana and also has stakes in wind-power outfit Nordex AG, carbon and graphite producer SGL and Geohumus, a company that is developing a water-storing granulite to be used in agriculture.

Francois Pinault & family
GLOBAL RANK: 59
$13 BILLION
 FRANCE, Luxury Goods

His fashion conglomerate owns Gucci, Stella McCartney, Yves Saint Laurent and Puma brands. He owns Christie’s, which sold $4.9 billion of art at auction in 2011. His personal art collection encompasses 2,000-plus works. Son François-Henri, who is married to actress Salma Hayek, is in a child-support battle with former supermodel Linda Evangelista over their son, Augie, born in 2006.

Viktor Vekselberg
GLOBAL RANK: 64
$12.4 BILLION
 Russia, Diversified

Vekselberg headed project Skolkovo, Russia’s attempt to create a version of Silicon Valley. Its projects attracted $150 million from investors last year. He gets his fortune from an array of holdings, including stakes in TNK-BP and UC Rusal. He apparently wants to buy Russia’s largest airport, Domodedovo. Has a vast collection of Fabergé, including the famous eggs.

(This story appears in the 30 March, 2012 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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