The past 12 months have been brutal for many Americans, with tens of millions losing their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. But for a handful of billionaires, 2020 has been nothing short of a bonanza.
The 10 richest men in the world have added $341 billion to their collective net worths in the last 12 months — a sum greater than the market value of Coca-Cola and Snap Inc. combined. Of that figure, $265 billion comes from just the five wealthiest individuals.
From Silicon Valley to Omaha, Nebraska, here’s who made out like a bandit in a year dominated by bad economic news.
Nobody’s bank account has ever had a better 2020 than the mercurial CEO of Tesla.
Musk started the year worth less than $30 billion only to see his fortune balloon to a staggering $167.2 billion — a gain of $139.7 billion amid a 670-percent stock rise in Telsa’s stock, according to data from the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
“It’s a historic rally that hasn’t been seen in the technology or automotive world ever,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives told The Post. “Musk has the golden touch with Tesla, and the appetite for the Musk and Tesla brand is at meteoric highs.”
The surge allowed Musk to quickly catapult up the wealth rankings to No. 2 — second only to that of world’s richest man Jeff Bezos, according to Bloomberg. In 2019, Musk didn’t even crack the top 30, according to Forbes, which ranked him at No. 31 on its popular rich list, released in March, with an estimated net worth of $24.6 billion.
Musk, who owns a 20 percent stake in Tesla, has the potential to get even richer after unlocking multiple stock awards from his eye-popping $50 billion pay package which was approved in early 2018. The South Africa-born executive, who does not take a salary from Tesla, now has the right, if he chooses to exercise those options, to buy enough Tesla stock at a $350-a-share that he could flip it for a $11.8 billion profit.
Bezos kept a firm grip on the No. 1 spot in 2020, despite stock sales that have added up to more than $10 billion, which were outweighed by Amazon’s 77 percent stock surge driven by soaring demand for online shopping.
The CEO saw his fortune surge by $77 billion in 2020 as stuck-at-home consumers turned to the e-commerce juggernaut for their shopping needs.
“Bezos is really on the top of the mountain when it comes to benefitting from Covid,” Ives said. “Amazon has benefitted from the e-commerce boom being the main artery for consumers, as well as from its cloud business.”
Remarkably, Bezos’s estimated $191.8 billion net worth isn’t even his high-water mark. The centabillionaire in August became the first person to ever be worth more than $200 billion.
Amazon’s stock growth has also made Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie Scott one of the richest women in the world, with the $30 billion she got in the couple’s divorce settlement growing by $22 billion.
The Facebook boss had a rough year that ended with an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission that threatens to breakup his social media empire. But that didn’t stop Facebook, which also owns photo sharing site Instagram, from surging by roughly 25 percent for the year, adding $24.7 billion to its baby-faced founder’s net worth.
Zuckerberg’s net worth surpassed $100 billion in August and is ringing in the new year with a $103 billion fortune. The fifth-richest man trails only Bezos, Musk, Gates and luxury goods magnate Bernard Arnault in the wealth rankings.
With regulators training their bullseye on Facebook, 2021 may prove to be a more tumultuous year for the stock. The FTC and a coalition of Attorneys General, led by New York’s Letitia James, say Facebook bought rivals like Instagram and WhatsApp to thwart the competition.
The former world’s richest man didn’t make too many headlines in 2020, but that didn’t stop him from raking in the dough. The ex-Microsoft executive, who has dedicated the second half of his life to charitable causes like ending world hunger, dropped from the No. 2 spot to No. 3 following Musk’s ascendance.
Still, he added $18.2 billion to his net worth in the last 12 months, and is currently worth $131.4 billion, according to Bloomberg.
Best of the rest
The three Walton siblings saw their fortune grow by a combined $26 billion as Walmart grew its e-commerce operations, while L’Oreal heiress Francois Bettencourt Meyers added a cool $17.8 billion to her net worth and is now valued at $76.8 billion.
Chinese billionaire Zhong Shangshang became the richest person in his home country in 2020, with the bottled water magnate seeing his wealth grow by $70 billion, to $77.8 billion, after his company went public.
A handful of losers
Not all the top billionaires made gains in 2020. Warren Buffett is set to end 2020 with $2.3 billion less than he started, due in part to the beating that Berkshire Hathaway took during the coronavirus lockdowns. The Oracle of Omaha is currently the No. 6 richest person in the world, with $87 billion.
Zara owner Amancio Ortega’s net worth slid $6.9 billion in 2020 to just under $69 billion as the pandemic shuttered retail, while Charles Koch and his family lost $11 billion over the past year.
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