In Depth

How the super rich got a whole lot richer during the coronavirus pandemic

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk is worth $90bn after lockdown gains

Elon Musk has become the fourth richest person in the world after shares in his company, Tesla, rocketed during the coronavirus pandemic. His total net worth now stands at $90.3bn, three times its value in January.

Tesla’s stock jumped by 11% on Monday alone, adding $13.3bn to Musk’s balance sheet and lifting him above Bernard Arnault, chief executive of the luxury brand Louis Vuitton, in the league table of billionaires. 

Who has gained the most during the pandemic?

Musk’s case may be “eye-catching”, says The Telegraph, but he’s far from the only plutocrat to grow significantly richer “in the midst of a pandemic that has seen world economies battered”.

On 16 March, “the Dow Jones suffered the worst single-day points drop in its history", says Business Insider. “But by 4 June, seven of the world’s richest people had seen their fortunes increase by over 50%.”

They include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who amassed $48bn between March and June, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, now worth $21bn more than he was before the pandemic.

While not yet in the same league, Zoom founder Eric Yuan has also made healthy gains. His wealth has almost quadrupled to $13bn.

Why are the rich getting richer?

Musk’s gains result from his 20% share of Tesla, a stake that’s now worth more than $50bn.

The company “occupies a market-leading position in the electric car industry and is pioneering much of the road towards self-driving vehicles”, says The Guardian. It has benefited from politicians’ willingness to back “a green recovery after the coronavirus pandemic”.

Amazon, meanwhile, “became a crutch for much of Western society during lockdown,” says The Telegraph, enriching Bezos in the process.

And as working from home became the norm, Yuan’s Zoom software was widely adopted for corporate video conferences and online social gatherings.

Beyond the realm of the billionaires, many people with more modest wealth invested in stock markets have also made gains. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index set a new record high yesterday, having recovered the sharp losses it suffered in March.

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