The world’s richest 1 per cent represents about two-thirds of all the wealth in the world and this astronomical sum is worth US$42 trillion since 2020. In a report by Oxfam International, the wealth gathered by this powerful group is almost twice as much as the bottom 99 per cent.
“While ordinary people are making daily sacrifices on essentials like food, the super-rich have outdone even their wildest dreams. Just two years in, this decade is shaping up to be the best yet for billionaire — a roaring ‘20s boom for the world’s richest,” said Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International.
Billionaires’ net worth have surged over the past three years against the backdrop of rising food and energy prices. Oxfam’s report found that 95 food and energy companies have more than doubled their profiles in 2022. This amounted to US$306 billion, and about 84 per cent of this profit went to stakeholders. For example, the Walton family, who owns half of Walmart, took home US$8.5 billion last year while Gautam Adani’s wealth expanded by 42 per cent or US$42 billion in the same year.
Bernard Arnault — US$206.6 billion
The CEO and chairman of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury conglomerate in the world, overtook Elon Musk to take title as the richest man of the world. Under his leadership, the company grew exponentially to include various sectors from fashion, beauty, alcohol to hospitality. Among its most notable are Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Moet & Chandon, Sephora and more. According to the latest financial results of LVMH, the group’s revenue grew by 23 per cent to €79.2 billion.
In 2021, LVMH acquired American jeweller Tiffany & Co. for US$15.8 billion, which was the largest luxury goods deal in history. At the age of 73, speculation that Arnault would be retiring soon became the talk of the town but was quickly shot down as the group extended his tenure to the age of 80. Most recently, Arnault’s eldest daughter was appointed to run Christian Dior as its CEO and chairman.
Elon Musk — US$184.7 billion
The 51-year-old was named the richest person in the world in September 2021 and his fortune peaked at US$302 billion. Musk remained in the top position until December 2022, when the stock prices of Tesla plummeted. He currently own 23 per cent of Tesla and accounts for about two-two-third of his fortune. Other than the electric car company, he also owns private rocket firm SpaceX and social media company Twitter.
During the start of the new decade, sales at Tesla surged and this increase in demand helped push the company’s stock prices up. Tesla cars were the top choice for many and it also rode on the wave for sustainability. But due to various problems related to the supply chain and safety, the car quickly lose its desirability as its fellow competitors managed to debut better products. As a result, Tesla shares have fallen nearly 50 per cent from its peak in November 2021 through February 2023.
Jeff Bezos — US$122.1 billion
The founder of e-commerce giant Amazon, Jeff Bezos overtook Bill Gates as the world’s richest person in 2017 and remained so until 2021 before Elon Musk outranked him. Earning his massive fortune through Amazon, Bezos stepped down as CEO in July 2021 but continues to be the company’s chairman. His hugely successful venture initially started off as a marketplace for books when the internet was still not ubiquitous. When more people became accustomed to online buying, the business took off to encompass more goods other than books. Amazon eventually expanded its services to include cloud storage and entertainment — Amazon Prime Video.
In 2019, Bezos and his wife Mackenzie Scott divorced. As part of the settlement, his ex-wife took home 4 per cent of Amazon’s shares while Bezos kept 12 per cent. In the following months, Bezos further sold his company shares and is estimated to have only 10 per cent stakes. The amount he earned from selling his shares was reportedly used to fund his private rocket company Blue Origin, which brought him to space in 2021.
Larry Ellison — US$108.8 billion
Software company Oracle was the brainchild of Larry Ellison when he cofounded it in 1977. For the next 37 years, he served as Oracle’s CEO before stepping down. Larry continues to be the company chairman and chief technology officer. Under his leadership, the company expanded and acquired several other companies including Sun Microsystem in 2010. As an early adopter of the internet, Ellison’s company developed products that were compatible with World Wide Web technologies and propelled the company even further.
Also known for his conspicuous spending, Ellison bought 98 per cent of the Hawaiian island of Lanai in 2012 and even founded a team that won the prestigious America’s Cup in 2010.
Bill Gates — US$107.3 billion
Founding the Gates Foundation with his ex-wife Melinda Gates, he donated about $59 billion to the organisation whose other patrons include Warren Buffet. Jeff Bezos overtook him in 2018 to be the world’s richest person.
Warren Buffett — US$101.6 billion
There are many books on Warren Buffett, mostly about his investment strategies. After all, he is one of the most successful investors of all time. The billionaire first bought his stock at 11 years old and filed taxes at 13. Most of his wealth comes from Berkshire Hathaway, the investing conglomerate that owns several dozen companies like Dairy Queen, Duracell, and Geico. The companies also own stocks in a number of blue chip companies like Apple, Johnson & Johnson, The Coca-Cola Company and more.
As much as he is an astronomical sum each year, Buffett is also a season donor. He created the Giving Pledge with Bill Gates and Melinda Gates in 2010, calling for billionaires to donate at least half their fortune to charitable groups. Most famously, Buffet has said that he would donate 99 per cent of his fortune and so far he has donated US$51.5 billion in Berkshire Hathaway stock to the Gates Foundation his other organisations founded by his children. To date, he is the most generous billionaire on the planet.
Steve Ballmer — US$88.5 billion
American businessman Steve Ballmer was CEO of Microsoft from 2000 to 2014, which he joined as employee number 30 in 1980. During his tenure, he oversaw the company through the first dot-com crash and kept pace with fellow competitors like Google in search capabilities and Apple in making mobile phones. In 2011, Ballmer was part of the mastermind behind the US$8.5 billion acquisition of internet communication company Skype, which helped to push Microsoft ahead of competitors such as Apple’s video chat function FaceTime and Google’s Voice.
By 2013, Ballmer announced that he would step down as CEO within a year and later he was succeeded by Satya Nadella. In the same year, he became the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers team, which he bought for US$2 billion.
Carlos Slim Helu — US$87.8 billion
Making most of his fortune through telecommunications, Carlos Slim Helu and his family control América Móvil, Latin America’s largest mobile telecom company with a presence in over 15 countries. Slim started off as a teacher at a university in Mexico City teaching algebra before becoming a businessman. In 1990, along with other foreign telecom partners, he acquired Telmex, a government-own phone company, to be part of América Móvil.
Mukesh Ambani — US$79.5 billion
Mukesh Ambani is in charge of the operations of Reliance Industries, a company that generates US$104 billion in revenue and invests in petrochemicals, oil and gas, telecom, and retail. The company also owns Network18, which Forbes Media licenses, and the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York. Reliance Industries was established by Mukesh’s late father, Dhirubhai Ambani, who began with a small textile manufacturing business in 1966. After Dhirubhai’s death in 2002, Mukesh and his younger brother Anil divided the family’s business empire.
For 14 years, Mukesh Ambani held the title of India’s wealthiest individual until Gautam Adani surpassed him in February 2022. However, in February 2023, Ambani regained the title of India’s richest after Adani’s fortune declined. Ambani’s net worth has placed him among Forbes’ global rankings of the top 10 richest individuals in the world between 2008 and 2011 and again from 2021 onwards.