fter breaking records a year ago, the world’s billionaires have shrunk in number and overall wealth on Forbes’ new 2022 list. But the uppermost ranks of this year’s 735 American billionaires bucked that trend. The ten richest U.S. billionaires are worth a combined $1.2 trillion–up from $1.05 trillion a year ago–and account for just over 25% of American billionaire wealth. Talk about wealth concentration.
Eight of the 10 richest Americans are worth more than last year, led by Elon Musk–the new number one richest in the world and the biggest gainer in dollar terms on the list–who is up $68 billion from a year ago, to an estimated fortune of $219 billion. His increased wealth was fueled by a 33% rise in the price of electric vehicle maker Tesla’s stock in the past year. The second biggest gainer among this group of ten: Steve Ballmer, whose Microsoft shares shot up a bit more than 20% over the year, contributing to a $22.7 billion jump in his fortune, to an estimated $91.4 billion.
The only two members of this elite group with smaller fortunes than in March 2021: Amazon founder and chairman Jeff Bezos, whose net worth dropped $6 billion since last year, to $171 billion, amid a dip in the e-commerce giant’s share price; and Mark Zuckerberg, the cofounder and CEO of the company formerly known as Facebook, whose fortune fell by nearly $30 billion over the past year, to $67.3 billion, as shares of recently renamed Meta Platforms fell nearly 30%.
Nine of these 10 people were among the 10 wealthiest in the U.S. a year ago as well. The one change: Mike Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and founder of financial data firm Bloomberg LP, who overtook Walmart heir Alice Walton this year.
Forbes calculated net worths for the 2022 list of the World’s Billionaires using stock prices and currency exchange rates from March 11, 2022.
Musk overtook Jeff Bezos to become the world’s richest person on Forbes’ 2022 list of the World’s Billionaires, buoyed by a rise in the share price of automaker Tesla. Musk, who ranked number two on Forbes’ 2021 list, first debuted on the Forbes billionaires list a decade ago, in 2012, worth $2 billion. The Tesla chief unloaded more than $16 billion of the electric vehicle maker’s shares over two months last year, likely resulting in the largest-ever one-year tax bill for an individual. What does he care? His fortune is still up $68 billion over the last 12 months.
For the first time in four years, Bezos is not the world’s richest. His fortune is $6 billion lower than a year ago, due to a 3% drop in Amazon stock and an uptick in his charitable donations. Since giving up the CEO role in July, he has focused on other endeavors: his commercial space company, Blue Origin, launched him into the heavens last summer; he has reportedly bought a superyacht; and he stepped up his charitable giving by donating more than $1 billion in 2021 to causes such as Barack Obama’s foundation and environmental groups.
The now-divorced Microsoft cofounder has been busy writing, with a book out last year on how to battle climate change and another coming in May about preventing another pandemic. In March, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined a coalition to develop drug candidates to combat future global contagions.
Berkshire Hathaway shares sit at record highs after a string of deals. Last fall, Buffett made a well-timed bet on Activision Blizzard, plowing $1.1 billion into the video game maker’s shares three months before Microsoft agreed to acquire it for $69 billion. His Berkshire Hathaway has snapped up some $7 billion worth of Occidental Petroleum stock this year amid soaring oil prices. In March, he led the biggest acquisition in years when Berkshire agreed to purchase insurer Alleghany for $11.6 billion in cash.
Google cofounders Page and Brin (pictured above), who together retain a controlling stake and sit on the board of parent company Alphabet, began selling shares last year for the first time since 2017. Each has cashed out more than $1 billion since May 2021, Forbes estimates.
Oracle’s chairman and former CEO is more than $10 billion wealthier this year as shareholders cheered its transition into a cloud-based company. In September, Ellison snapped up a Lake Tahoe resort for $345 million. His sprawling real estate portfolio includes the Hawaiian island of Lanai, which he bought for $300 million in 2012, and at least ten properties on Malibu’s glitzy Carbon Beach.
The NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, which the former Microsoft CEO bought for a lofty $2 billion eight years ago, are now valued by Forbes at $3.3 billion. Not a bad return. But it’s Microsoft stock that has really let Ballmer run up the score—its shares are up more than 600% over the same period, adding more than $65 billion to his net worth.
The man whose Bloomberg terminals power Wall Street pledged $120 million to combat drug overdoses in November and $750 million to support charter schools in December. New York’s former mayor also spent $1.2 billion backing Democrats (including more than $1 billion on his own abortive White House run) in the 2020 election cycle. He’s more bearish about 2022, warning Dems in a recent opinion piece that “absent an immediate course correction, the party is headed for a wipeout in November.”
Facebook renamed itself Meta Platforms in October as Zuckerberg sets his sights on building a nebulously defined (and potentially undesired) techtopia called the “metaverse.” He has good reason to escape the physical world, in which Meta shares have dropped by 50% since their September peak. He’s out of the world’s 10 richest for the first time in six years.
With reporting by Matt Durot, John Hyatt, Rachel Sandler and Chase Peterson-Withorn
From left-to-right: Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos
America's 10 Richest Billionaires 2022 – Forbes