Some of the fortunes that grew the most were those of technology moguls, such as the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, or Elon Musk, founder of Tesla.
Billionaires have always been in a different orbit than the rest of us.
While much of the world had to contend with rising unemployment and lower growth, 0.001% of the population benefited from unprecedented wealth creation.
The world’s 500 richest people added $ 1.8 trillion to their combined net worth this year and are now valued at $ 7.6 trillion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Equivalent to a 31% increase, it is the largest annual gain in the index’s eight-year history and a $ 3 trillion rally from the market’s lowest point in March.
The gains were disproportionately reflected at the top, where five people now have fortunes in excess of $ 100 billion and another 20 own at least $ 50 billion.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, remains the world’s richest person thanks to growing enthusiasm for online retail during the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns. Elon Musk had the biggest earnings, possibly in the fastest wealth-building span in history, rising to second place after Tesla Inc.’s value soared.
Combined, the two made roughly $ 217 billion in 12 months, enough to send checks for $ 2,000 to more than 100 million Americans.
Chinese immigrant Eric Yuan rose to fame with his video conferencing technology, Zoom Video Communications. Gym closures forced athletes to seek alternatives at home, prompting Peloton Interactive and turning its CEO, John Foley, into a billionaire.
Lush markets and a flurry of public offerings supercharged wealth creation in China, where the initial emergence of COVID-19 sparked more successful containment efforts than most. Chinese members of the index added $ 569 billion to their fortunes, more than any other country apart from the US.
Zhong Shanshan, a low-key water bottle mogul, became the richest person in Asia after initial offerings from two of his companies helped increase his net worth by $ 70.9 billion. He replaced Mukesh Ambani, who has begun to transform his conglomerate into an e-commerce and technology colossus.
Not all billionaires in the region prospered. Jack Ma started the year as the richest person in China, a position he was about to consolidate with the surging sales of his e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding and the impending listing of Ant Group. They then suspended Ant’s IPO shortly after Ma’s criticism of Chinese regulators, and his net worth fell, along with some of the country’s other tech titans.
This year’s crises also highlighted the role that billionaire capital and the companies they control can play when the government’s response falls short. Whether it was donating personal protective equipment, funding medical research and social justice causes, or advocating for vaccines, millionaires played a role in responding to the year’s woes.