The Sky’s No Limit
Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk’s battle to be the wealthiest in the galaxy. Plus: The world’s 50 richest people.
JEFF BEZOS and ELON MUSK saw their fortunes reach the stratosphere in the past year—with each rocket man amassing more than $150 billion as they battled to be the wealthiest person in the galaxy.
It’s been a year like no other, and we aren’t talking about the pandemic. There were rapid-fire public offerings, surging cryptocurrencies and skyrocketing stock prices. The number of billionaires simply exploded. Forbes found an unprecedented 2,755 around the world—660 more than a year ago. A staggering 86% are richer than they were then. Altogether they’re worth
$13.1 trillion, up from $8 trillion in 2020; their average net worth is $4.7 billion, $900 million more than last year. The U.S. still has the most billionaires, with 724, followed by Greater China with 698. We used stock prices and exchange rates from March 5, 2021, to calculate net worths. For the full list of the world’s billionaires and our methodology, please visit forbes.com/billionaires.
1. Jeff Bezos
$177 BIL ⬆ • SOURCE: AMAZON AGE: 57 • CITIZENSHIP: U.S.
Bezos’ $64 billion jump keeps the Amazon founder, who is stepping down as CEO later in 2021, in the top spot for a fourth consecutive year.
2. Elon Musk
$151 BIL ⬆ • TESLA, SPACEX
AGE: 49 • U.S.
Musk’s fortune rocketed $126 billion since March 2020 as Tesla shares soared; he briefly overtook Bezos as the world’s wealthiest in January.
$150 BIL ⬆ • LVMH
AGE: 72 • FRANCE
The richest person in Europe closed several major deals, most notably LVMH’s long-delayed acquisition of iconic jeweler Tiffany for a reduced price of $16 billion in January.
4. Bill Gates
$124 BIL ⬆ • MICROSOFT
AGE: 65 • U.S.
The Microsoft cofounder, who left its board last year, is wealthier than he’s ever been, buoyed in part by the software firm’s surging stock.
5. Mark Zuckerberg
$97 BIL ⬆ • FACEBOOK
AGE: 36 • U.S.
Continued congressional scrutiny has yet to dent Zuckerberg’s fortune. Facebook shares are near record highs.
6. Warren Buffett
$96 BIL ⬆ • BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY AGE: 90 • U.S.
Berkshire Hathaway bought Dominion Energy’s natural-gas pipelines for $8 billion in July, but the Oracle of Omaha has otherwise been relatively quiet during the pandemic.
7. Larry Ellison
$93 BIL ⬆ • SOFTWARE
AGE: 76 • U.S.
The Silicon Valley titan reportedly moved to Hawaii during the pandemic. Oracle, meanwhile, which he cofounded in 1977, has relocated its headquarters from the Bay Area to Texas.
8. Larry Page
$91.5 BIL ⬆ • GOOGLE AGE: 48 • U.S.
9. Sergey Brin
$89 BIL ⬆ • GOOGLE
AGE: 47 • U.S.
The Google cofounders still serve on the board of Alphabet but otherwise maintain low profiles. Google has been under fire in Australia recently for what critics say is the search engine’s role in weakening the media there.
10. Mukesh Ambani
$84.5 BIL • DIVERSIFIED
AGE: 63 • INDIA
Ambani reclaims his spot as Asia’s richest person, adding nearly
$48 billion to his fortune over the past year as shares of his conglomerate, Reliance Industries, have increased significantly.
11. Amancio Ortega
$77 BIL ⬆ • ZARA
AGE: 85 • SPAIN
The founder of clothing giant Inditex—best known for its Zara retail chain—weathered the storm: Sales fell by nearly 30% in 2020 but its stock is up 34% over the year.
12. Françoise Bettencourt Meyers & family
$73.6 BIL ⬆ • L’ORÉAL
AGE: 67 • FRANCE
The granddaughter of cosmetics giant L’Oréal’s founder benefited from a 38% jump in the company’s stock despite the fact that profits fell 6% in 2020.
13. Zhong Shanshan
$68.9 BIL ⬆ • BEVERAGES
AGE: 66 • CHINA
The September 2020 IPO of his bottled-water firm, Nongfu Spring, drove up his fortune by 3,345%, making him the year’s biggest percentage gainer and China’s new richest person.
14. Steve Ballmer
$68.7 BIL ⬆ • MICROSOFT
AGE: 65 • U.S.
The former Microsoft CEO, who is worth $16 billion more since last year amid a 67% surge in the software firm’s stock price, donated $54 million in 2020 to Covid-related causes such as vaccine testing and child care for essential workers.
15. Ma Huateng
$65.8 BIL ⬆ • INTERNET MEDIA AGE: 49 • CHINA
His web-media giant, Tencent, which owns stakes in Tesla and Snap, notched another win with the February public offering of video-sharing app Kuaishou. Tencent owns 18% of the firm.
16. Carlos Slim Helú & family
$62.8 BIL ⬆ • TELECOM
AGE: 81 • MEXICO
The telecom mogul was briefly hospitalized with Covid-19 in January. His pan–Latin American wireless firm, América Móvil, ended 2020 with 287 million subscribers, up 3% in a year.
17. Alice Walton
$61.8 BIL ⬆ • WALMART AGE: 71 • U.S.
18. Jim Walton
$60.2 BIL ⬆ • WALMART AGE: 72 • U.S.
19. Rob Walton
$59.5 BIL ⬆ • WALMART
AGE: 76 • U.S.
The children of Walmart founder Sam Walton own, with other family members, about half of the world’s largest retailer. Walmart introduced free delivery as part of an Amazon Prime–like membership program, helping boost online sales 69% in the year through January.
20. Michael Bloomberg
$59 BIL ⬆ • BLOOMBERG LP
AGE: 79 • U.S.
He smashed political spending records last year, pouring more than $1 billion into his own presidential campaign and $150 million to support other Democrats.
21. Colin Zheng Huang
$55.3 BIL ⬆ • E-COMMERCE AGE: 41 • CHINA
The founder of online discounter Pinduoduo stepped down as its chairman in March to pursue research in food and life sciences; he gave up his CEO role in July.
22. MacKenzie Scott
$53 BIL ⬆ • AMAZON
AGE: 50 • U.S.
Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife (above right) rocked the philanthropy world in 2020 with nearly $6 billion in grants to 500 nonprofits across the U.S., including Puerto Rico. She recently remarried.
23. Daniel Gilbert
$51.9 BIL ⬆ • QUICKEN LOANS AGE: 59 • U.S.
His Rocket Companies—America’s largest mortgage lender—went public in August, boosting Gilbert’s net worth by $38 billion in one day.
24. Gautam Adani & family
$50.5 BIL ⬆ • INFRASTRUCTURE, COMMODITIES • AGE: 58 • INDIA The infrastructure tycoon is nearly $42 billion richer than a year ago as shares of five publicly traded companies in his Adani Group hit their all-time highs.
25. Phil Knight & family
$49.9 BIL ⬆ • NIKE
AGE: 83 • U.S.
The latest philanthropic effort from Nike’s retired founder is a luxe, newly renovated track stadium at his alma mater, the University of Oregon.
26. Jack Ma
$48.4 BIL ⬆ • E-COMMERCE
AGE: 56 • CHINA
The Alibaba cofounder has been lying low since the dual listing of his fintech giant, Ant Group, was halted by Chinese regulators in November.
27. Charles Koch
$46.4 BIL ⬆ • KOCH INDUSTRIES AGE: 85 • U.S.
27. Julia Koch & family
$46.4 BIL ⬆ • KOCH INDUSTRIES AGE: 58 • U.S.
Koch Industries, which Charles chairs, topped Cargill to become America’s largest private company (as measured by revenue); the conglomerate hauled in $115 billion in sales in 2019. He and the family of Julia, the widow of his younger brother David (d. 2019), each have a 42% stake in the business.
29. Masayoshi Son
$45.4 BIL ⬆ • INTERNET, TELECOM AGE: 63 • JAPAN
After his SoftBank Vision Fund suffered a very public blow from its fraught WeWork investment,
Son came roaring back with wins including IPOs for food-delivery app DoorDash and Korean e-commerce company Coupang.
30. Michael Dell
$45.1 BIL ⬆ • COMPUTERS AGE: 56 • U.S.
His fortune nearly doubled as shares of Dell Technologies hit an all-time high, thanks in part to record sales of $94.2 billion.
31. Tadashi Yanai & family
$44.1 BIL ⬆ • FASHION RETAIL AGE: 72 • JAPAN
The net worth of the Japanese apparel billionaire more than doubled as demand for Uniqlo’s comfortable everyday clothes and its triple-layer masks surged during the pandemic.
32. François Pinault & family
$42.3 BIL ⬆ • LUXURY GOODS AGE: 84 • FRANCE
The founder of luxury conglomerate Kering is finally opening his long-awaited art museum in the 19th-century Bourse de Commerce building in Paris this year.
33. David Thomson & family
$41.8 BIL ⬆ • MEDIA
AGE: 63 • CANADA
Canada’s richest person is the chairman of publicly traded media giant Thomson Reuters, whose shares are up 16% in the past year.
34. Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr.
$39.2 BIL ⬆ • SUPERMARKETS
The siblings inherited the discount retailer Aldi Sued. During the pandemic, its stores began using 3D sensors to measure customer traffic and regulate access.
35. Wang Wei
$39 BIL ⬆ • PACKAGE DELIVERY AGE: 50 • CHINA
Revenue of his S.F. Express—the “FedEx of China”—rose 37% in 2020 as e-commerce boomed during China’s Covid-19 lockdowns.
36. Miriam Adelson
$38.2 BIL ⬆ • CASINOS
AGE: 75 • U.S.
The widow of Sheldon Adelson (d. January 2021) now controls 56% of casino operator Las Vegas Sands, which is cashing out of Vegas to focus on Asia.
37. He Xiangjian
$37.7 BIL ⬆ • HOME APPLIANCES AGE: 78 • CHINA
The cofounder of electricappliance maker Midea Group reportedly escaped a kidnapping attempt last June, when several men tried to break into his home using explosives.
38. Dieter Schwarz
$36.9 BIL ⬆ • RETAIL
AGE: 81 • GERMANY
Sales of the Schwarz Group, owner of Kaufland and Lidl discount supermarkets, are expected to have risen 23%, to $170 billion, in the year through February 2021.
39. Zhang Yiming
$35.6 BIL ⬆ • TIKTOK
AGE: 37 • CHINA
Zhang founded ByteDance, creator of popular short-video app TikTok, in a four-bedroom apartment in 2012. Its December funding round valued the unicorn at $180 billion.
40. Giovanni Ferrero
$35.1 BIL ⬆ • NUTELLA, CHOCOLATES • AGE: 56 • ITALY The chairman of the Ferrero Group, known for its Nutella, Tic Tac and Kinder brands, added a stake in Britain’s Fox’s Biscuits to his chocolate and confectionery empire.
41. Alain Wertheimer
$34.5 BIL ⬆ • CHANEL
AGE: 72 • FRANCE
41. Gerard Wertheimer
$34.5 BIL ⬆ • CHANEL
AGE: 70 • FRANCE
The brothers—grandsons of Chanel cofounder Pierre Wertheimer—are each $17 billion richer than last year amid a rebound in the luxury sector.
43. Li Ka-shing
$33.7 BIL ⬆ • DIVERSIFIED
AGE: 92 • HONG KONG
Hong Kong’s richest person gained $12 billion, thanks to his holdings overseas, including stakes in videoconference firm Zoom and energy-drink maker Celsius.
44. Qin Yinglin & family
$33.5 BIL ⬆ • PIG BREEDING AGE: 55 • CHINA
Qin founded China’s top hog producer in 1992 with wife Qian Ying and just 22 pigs. He’s still the chairman; she sits on the board.
45. William Lei Ding
$33 BIL ⬆ • ONLINE GAMES AGE: 49 • CHINA
Revenue at his Nasdaq-listed NetEase rose 24% in 2020 as pandemic lockdowns drove demand for its online-gaming and remote-learning products.
46. Len Blavatnik
$32 BIL ⬆ • MUSIC, CHEMICALS AGE: 63 • U.S.
Blavatnik’s Warner Music is worth nearly $18 billion after going public in June 2020, more than five times what the mogul paid for it in 2011.
47. Lee Shau Kee
$31.7 BIL ⬆ • REAL ESTATE
AGE: 93 • HONG KONG
Shares of his Henderson Land seesawed during the pandemic but ended up for the year, though still well off their all-time high.
48. Jacqueline Mars
$31.3 BIL ⬆ • CANDY, PET FOOD AGE: 81 • U.S.
48. John Mars
$31.3 BIL ⬆ • CANDY, PET FOOD AGE: 85 • U.S.
Each of the Mars siblings owns an estimated one-third of the
$40 billion (sales) candy, pet care and food company. Best known for M&M’s and Skittles, Mars Inc. acquired snack bar maker Kind in November 2020, three years after it took a minority stake.
50. Yang Huiyan & family
$29.6 BIL ⬆ • REAL ESTATE
AGE: 39 • CHINA
The heiress is the largest shareholder of real estate developer Country Garden Holdings; she also chairs U.S.-listed education firm Bright Scholar Education Holdings.