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Elon Musk reclaims title as world’s richest person in good year for billionaires

Most of the world’s 20 largest fortunes increased thanks to the strong performance of tech companies and rising stock prices

Elon Musk Influencers
Elon Musk, at an event in Rome last December 16.ANGELO CARCONI (EFE)
Manme Guerra

After a 2022 in which most of the world’s richest people saw their fortunes fall, to a greater or lesser extent, 2023 has been a good year for billionaires. Their fortunes have risen by hundreds of millions of dollars, largely thanks to strong performances in the stock market, especially for tech companies. This year, the world’s richest 20 people does not include anyone from China, after Zhong Shanshan — who was in 14th spot in 2022 — dropped out of the list, according to Bloomberg data updated as of December 29.

The biggest change this year with respect to last is that Elon Musk has reclaimed his title as the world’s richest person. The Tesla and SpaceX founder fell to No. 2 in 2022, a year which saw lots of controversy and poor results from Tesla. In 2023, Musk continued to be embroiled in controversy, but the electric car company’s share prices soared 107%. As a result, Musk’s net worth rose from $138.3 billion to $232.4 billion, a figure that still does not exceed the $277.3 billion he recorded in 2021.

Second place is hotly contested, but on Friday, it went to Bernard Arnault, with $179 billion. The CEO of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) — who dethroned Musk in 2022 — saw his net worth rise by $14.5 billion, despite the fact that LVMH is no longer the most valuable company in Europe. This title now belongs to the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, which makes the anti-obesity drugs Wegovy and Ozempic.

Close behind in third spot is Jeff Bezos, with a net worth of $178.3 billion. He rose from No. 6 spot in 2022, when his fortune was $107.2 billion. He is one of the billionaires who have benefitted from the strong performance of tech companies. The company he founded, Amazon, made $19.8 billion in net income in the first nine months of the year.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates remains in fourth place, where he has been for the past two years. His net worth rose from $109.5 billion last year to $140.5 billion — a fortune he repeatedly says he plans to donate via the foundation he created with his ex-wife Melinda Gates.

In fifth position, behind Gates, is the former CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, who jumped four spots since 2022. His net worth rose from $86.2 billion to $130.5 billion.

But it was Mark Zuckerberg who made the biggest rise of the world’s richest 20 people. In 2022, he fell to 25th spot due to Meta Platform’s fall on the stock market, which saw his fortune drop to $44.8 billion. Now he is in sixth spot, with $129.6 billion, after Meta — the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — carried out a series of cuts. The market responded positively to the measure, as well as Zuckerberg’s decision to park investment in the metaverse.

In seventh place is Larry Page, who was in 10th spot in 2022. The Google co-founder has a fortune of $126.8 billion, up from $83.1 billion in 2022. He has also benefitted from gains in the tech sector in 2023, a year which has been marked by the progress of artificial intelligence. The same is true for fellow Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who is in ninth place with $120.3 billion, up from $79.5 billion in 2022, when he was in 11th position. In eighth spot is Larry Ellison, the founder of software giant Oracle, who moved up one position, with his fortune rising from $91.5 billion to $123.8 billion.

Warren Buffett, who has been on the list of the world’s richest 20 people for years, is in 10th spot. He fell five positions from 2022, even though his fortune grew from $107.7 billion to $120.3 billion. The end of the year brought sad news for the billionaire: on November 28, his right-hand man, Charlie Munger, died at the age of 99.

The first Latin American on the list is, once again, Carlos Slim, who climbed from 12th to 11th spot. The owner of América Móvil now has a net worth of $104.4 billion, compared to $75.5 billion, last year. He is followed by the first woman in the list — Françoise Bettencourt Meyer — who also climbed one position. Bettencourt Meyer — who inherited her mother’s shares in the L’Oréal group — has the second-largest in France, with $100.1 billion, up from $75.5 billion in 2022.

Spanish businessman Amancio Ortega is in 12th position after falling out of the top 20 in 2022. His wealth has grown thanks to the strong profits and stock market performance of his company Inditex, which includes brands such as Zara. According to Bloomberg data, the richest person in Spain has a fortune of $87.6 billion, which is $32 billion more than in 2022. Forbes, on the other hand, puts his fortune at $100.8 billion.

Mukesh Ambani dropped from eighth to 13th place on the list, although the fortune of the CEO of India’s Reliance Industries rose from $86.9 billion to $97.1 billion.

The biggest drop was recorded by Gautam Adani, who fell from No.3 to No.15 spot, with his fortune falling from $121.1 billion to $83 billion. In just one week in February, the founder of Adani Group — which encompasses everything from mines to ports to food groups — lost almost half of his fortune following allegations of accounting fraud by investment firm Hindenburg Research. In November, an investigation commissioned by the Supreme Court of India concluded that the allegations were not credible. As a result, the company’s fortune has risen, and with it Adani’s net worth.

Coming in No.16 spot is Michael Dell, founder of the technology company Dell. His total net worth rose to $78.5 billion, up from $48.4 billion in 2022.

The next three names on the list belong to the Walton family, the owners of retail giant Walmart. Jim Walton is in 17th spot, with $72.6 billion. He is followed by Rob Walton, with $71.2 billion, and Alice Walton, with $70 billion.

Closing out the list is Julia Flesher Koch and family, who were in 16th spot in 2022. The widow of David Koch, co-owner of a conglomerate that includes, oil and pipelines, saw her net worth fall slighting from $67.3 billion in 2022 to $66.6 billion this year. She and Adani are the only two on the list who saw their fortunes fall in 2023.

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