It’s just a snapshot, as billionaire fortunes are accumulating at a remarkable rate. The data is based on the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List, visualized by the online platform “Visual Capitalist”.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is the richest person in the world with a fortune of $212 billion. Tesla delivered nearly one million vehicles worldwide in 2021. Despite a shortage of computer chips, Tesla deliveries are up 87 percent year over year. Musk, who is also CEO and chief engineer at SpaceX, plans to launch the largest rocket ever built into orbit in 2022. It will be 119 meters high.
Jeff Bezos is second with a net worth of $168 billion. Bezos is the only billionaire in the top 10 to have seen their wealth decline (down $9 billion) over the year. Since March 2021, Amazon shares are up just 3 percent amid weaker earnings and a slowdown in retail.
Of particular note is that Meta (formerly Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg fell out of the top 10 for the first time since 2016. Meta’s shares plummeted after reporting the first drop in global daily active users since 2004.
The wealth of the top 10 has increased at different rates. Here, too, Musk has the edge. He has been able to increase his wealth more than anyone in this top 10 list. In 2021, Tesla became a trillion-dollar company for the first time, and Musk’s wealth increased 29 percent over the past year.
At least ten people worldwide have seen their fortunes soar into the billions thanks to the stratospheric rise of cryptocurrencies. Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of crypto derivatives exchange FTX, leads the way with a staggering $24 billion net worth. Bankman-Fried started the stock market in 2019, at the age of 27. FTX now has one million users and a valuation of $32 billion.
Bankman-Fried is followed by Brian Armstrong, co-founder of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. It is the second largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world after Binance. Also on the list are cryptocurrency exchange Gemini co-founders Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, each with a net worth of $4 billion. Like their rival Mark Zuckerberg, they have their sights set on building a metaverse.
Visual Capitalist has also made rankings in other categories. Musk is also number one in green energy, and Jeff Bezos in tech.
Will billionaire fortunes keep accumulating at record speed? If the invasion of Ukraine continues, it is likely to have wider structural consequences.
Some argue that war is a great leveler, a force that has reduced wealth inequality as seen after World War II. Others say it widens wealth inequalities, especially when war is funded by government debt. Costs have often been exacerbated by war and weigh on low- and middle-income households.
Whether the war will have a lasting impact on wealth distribution is an open question, but if the pandemic serves as a precedent, the impact is far from predictable.