How Elon Musk lost $130 billion in a year

The business magnate’s net value dropped significantly due to Tesla’s stock crash, while other tech chiefs also saw major losses, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index

Tesla founder Elon Musk.
Tesla founder Elon Musk.Getty

While 2021 was a good year for Elon Musk, the same cannot be said of 2022. Last year, the Tesla founder was named the richest person in the world. But 12 months later, more than $132 billion has been erased from his net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The massive decline is due to Tesla’s falling share prices, which have shed two-thirds of their value over the past year. As a result of the slump, Musk – who has been surrounded by controversy since buying Twitter – is no longer the world’s richest person. He has been bumped down to No. 2 in the rankings, behind Frenchman Bernard Arnault, the top shareholder in the French luxury company LVMH (the owner of brands such as Dom Pérignon, Hennessy and Christian Dior).

But it wasn’t just Musk who had a bad year. Many tech companies saw stocks plummet and were forced to cut staff and slash costs to temper the concerns of jittery shareholders. It’s a stark change for the sector, which saw record-high profits during the Covid-19 pandemic. The stock crash of Meta (the owner of Facebook), Alphabet (the owner of Google), Amazon and Microsoft has upended the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, who was ranked No. 6 in 2021, fell out of the top 20. Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Alphabet), who were ranked No. 5 and No. 7 respectively in 2021, fell to 10 and 11. And Amazon founder Jeff Bezos dropped from second to sixth place. Only Microsoft owner Bill Gates has maintained the same spot on the list (No. 4), even though his net worth fell from $138 billion to $108 billion, according to Bloomberg data.

Musk’s case, however, stands out from the rest. Not only did the business magnate see the biggest drop in net worth, his erratic behavior following the Twitter buyout also raised eyebrows. In a bid to assuage concerns over Tesla’s falling value, Musk sent an end-of-year-email to workers at the electric carmaker. “Don’t be too bothered by stock market craziness,” he told employees, some of whom receive part of their salary in Tesla shares. “As we demonstrate continued excellent performance, the market will recognize that. Long-term, I believe very much that Tesla will be the most valuable company on Earth!”

In a year of great instability due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and interest rate hikes aimed at bringing down inflation, the combined wealth of the world’s top 500 billionaires fell by $1.4 trillion. But not all business industries were equally hit. Traditional sectors fared better, as seen by Arnault, who ousted Musk from the top spot on the list. Even though his fortune fell by $13 billion, the LVMH chairman and CEO was crowned the richest man in the world – a spot that has traditionally been occupied by American billionaires.

Indian industrialist Gautam Adani was also able to weather the challenges of 2022. His self-named mining company took advantage of the global energy crisis, while his shipping arm benefited from supply chain bottlenecks. Until recently, Adani was not even ranked among the world’s top 20 billionaires, but he has quickly risen to the top. In 2021, his fortune doubled, pushing him to the No. 14 spot. And in 2022, with a net worth of $121 billion (a year-on-year change of $44 billion), he is now in third place. Indian businessman Mukesh Ambani, the largest shareholder of Reliance Industries, is in eighth spot. With India set to overtake China as the most populous nation in the world, all signs indicate that there will be further growth there. Nearly all the top 20 billionaires on the Bloomberg Index are either American or European, but it is clear that the economic center of trade is moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and sooner or later, this will be reflected in the world’s biggest fortunes.

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