The planet’s billionaires are nearly US$2 trillion poorer this year


Illustration of Sam Bankman-Fried, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk.



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

It’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. [All dollar amounts are quoted in USD]

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 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 has continued to plunge.

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