The total wealth of the world’s billionaires has fallen from a record high last year when global stock markets plummeted since Russia invaded Ukraine, although the planet’s richest people still collectively hold $12.7 trillion (£9.7 trillion). ) own assets.
According to Forbes magazine’s annual ranking of the world’s richest people, the number of billionaires worldwide has fallen by 329 to 2,668, with the total value of their combined wealth down slightly from $13.1 trillion on the 2021 list.
It said that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – and the ensuing avalanche of sanctions – caused the Russian stock market and the ruble to plummet, resulting in 34 Russian billionaires fewer on the list. Almost everyone from the billionaire-status country saw their wealth stagnate or shrink, with their total wealth shrinking by more than $260 billion from a year earlier.
According to Forbes, the drop in the total number of billionaires to 2,668 from 2,755 was the largest since the 2009 financial crisis, but followed an increase of more than 600 in 2021 as global stocks rebounded from the pandemic lows.
Tesla and SpaceX maverick Elon Musk has been named the world’s richest man for the first time with a fortune of $219 billion, up $68 billion from a year earlier on the automaker’s soaring share price.
Musk overtook Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, whose fortune fell to $171 billion after a slight decline in the company’s stock price and donations to charity.
Bezos’ estimated $1.5 billion in charitable giving pales in comparison to his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott, who has given $12.5 billion to more than 1,250 organizations in less than two years. Scott, who received a $38 billion settlement when she divorced Bezos in 2019, has fallen from the 22nd to the 30th richest person in the world with a fortune of $43.6 billion.
Among the dropouts are 169 “one-year wonders” – newcomers to the 2021 list but who have already dropped out. They include John Foley of exercise bike company Peloton and Whitney Wolfe Herd of dating app Bumble.
Around 236 people joined the billionaire club for the first time, including the pop star Rihanna, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and venture capitalist Joshua Kushner. Barbados, Bulgaria, Estonia and Uruguay won their first billionaires.
Millionaires for Humanity, a coalition of rich people calling for a global wealth tax on the super-rich to tackle inequality, said the Forbes list was “a slap in the face to society”.
Djaffar Shalchi, a Danish multi-millionaire and founder of the initiative, said: “The Forbes list of the rich is a stark reminder of the obscenely unequal world we live in. While most people around the world are struggling to adapt and survive the pandemic, many have lost their jobs and plunged deeper into poverty, those on the Forbes list of the rich have been able to sit back and watch their wealth soaring.”
“It’s an affront to humanity, an insult to the claim that we all sit in it together, and a slap in the face to those of us who believe we share this planet and its resources equally.”
“The time for a wealth tax for people like me is long overdue. Inequality is bad for everyone. Even in the US, we are studying the prospect of President Biden introducing a billionaire tax. That would be an important step in the right direction.”