The Planet’s Billionaires Are Nearly $2 Trillion Poorer This Year

It was a tough year for tech billionaires, Russian oligarchs–and Elon Musk.

IIt’s been a bad year to be a billionaire–and not just for those who blew up their businesses or got themselves arrested. After adding trillions to their collective fortunes in 2020 and 2021, the world’s richest people were rocked by 12 months of shaky stock markets, war in Europe and rampant inflation.

As a group, the planet’s billionaires have lost $1.9 trillion in 2022, according to Forbes‘ estimates, with their collective wealth dropping from $13.8 trillion on New Year’s Day to $11.9 trillion on December 9. The number of billionaires has fallen too, from 2,671 to 2,523, per Forbes‘ real-time tracker, as high-profile moguls like Sam Bankman-Fried, Kanye West and Rivian founder RJ Scaringe have dropped from the ranks.

No one has been hit harder than the world’s 300 or so tech billionaires, who have collectively lost more than $1 trillion in 2022. After a raucous couple years when the pandemic boom and overeager investors drove up tech stocks and startup valuations, things have plummeted back to Earth. Companies are slashing costs, laying off workers and pulling IPOs. Shares of Amazon have cratered by nearly 50%, helping knock more than $80 billion off founder Jeff Bezos’ net worth. Google-parent Alphabet’s stock is down 36%, lopping more than $40 billion apiece from the fortunes of cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Microsoft stock has slid 27% through December 9, denting the riches of cofounder Bill Gates and former CEO Steve Ballmer, though Gates’ bad year is mostly his own doing: This summer, he made a $20 billion gift to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation . Mark Zuckerberg, who Forbes categorizes as media & entertainment, is some $78 billion poorer this year, as shares of Facebook-parent Meta Platforms have fallen by 66%.

The biggest loser of 2022, by far, is Elon Musk, who Forbes classifies as an automotive billionaire since most of his net worth stems from electric vehicle maker Tesla. Musk has been reminded of that fact by investors, who have pushed Tesla’s stock price down 60% through December 20 this year, in part due to fears that Musk, who is also CEO of rocket maker SpaceX, is spending far too much time and money on his newest toy, Twitter (where he is also the CEO–for now). Musk has shed more than $ 115 billion of his wealth in 2022, by Forbes‘ count. He began the year the planet’s richest person by a huge margin, some $70 billion ahead of French luxury goods kingpin Bernard Arnault. Musk lost the top spot to Arnault earlier this month and his net worth he has continued to plunge.

American billionaires have lost the most this year, with some $660 billion in collective wealth up in smoke. In addition to the heavy losses sustained by Musk and the nation’s tech billionaires, American entrepreneurs like Nike cofounder Phil Knight (who is down $18.3 billion), former Estee Lauder boss Leonard Lauder (-$9.8 billion) and Rocket Mortgage founder Dan Gilbert (-$8.1 billion) rank among the US citizens who had the worst in 2022.

China, which has faced Covid-19 challenges, domestic protests and slumping global demand, hasn’t fared much better. Chinese billionaires are down an aggregate $620 billion, with big losers including Alibaba cofounder Jack Ma (-$13.1 billion), who is reportedly living in Japan following China’s tech crackdown, real estate heir Yang Huiyan (-$11.6 billion) and bottled water mogul Zhong Shanshan (-$11.3 billion).

Meanwhile, the war with Ukraine continues to impact Russia’s richest people, who have been hit with sanctions and a struggling economy, leading to an estimated $150 billion drop in the total net worth of the nation’s billionaires.

Still, not everyone is doing poorly. New billionaires have emerged, including investing and sports magnate Todd Boehly and designer Tom Ford. And it’s been a great year for a handful of super-fortunate billionaires, including Colin Zheng Huang (+$11.1 billion), the Chinese billionaire behind e-commerce giant Pinduoduo, and Low Tuck Kwong (+$16 billion), who is known as the coal king of Indonesia. And you probably won’t hear any complaints about 2022 from Indian billionaire Gautam Adani. He had the best year of all, gaining $55.1 billion over the past 12 months as his Adani Group–which has interests in ports, airports, power generation, green energy and real estate–skyrockets in value. At $133.9 billion, he’s set to begin 2023 as the world’s third-richest person–well within striking distance of a sputtering Elon Musk.


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