In Focus

Top billionaires: who are the world’s richest people?

Jeff Bezos is No.1 on the rich list ahead of Bernard Arnault and Elon Musk

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, remains the world’s richest person with a fortune of $201.8bn (£145.8bn), according to the Forbes Real Time Billionaires list. 

After 27 years he has stepped down as CEO of Amazon and is replaced by Andy Jassy. The 57-year-old now takes on a new position, executive chair of the Amazon board, The Verge reports. 

Bezos tops the world’s rich list with Bernard Arnault and family, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg completing the top five.  

Despite the economic uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been “a year like no other” for the world’s richest, Forbes said in its 35th Annual World’s Billionaires List. The magazine revealed that the number of billionaires “exploded” to an unprecedented 2,755 - that’s 660 more than a year ago. Collectively, the men and women on Forbes’s rich list are worth $13.1trn (£9.49trn) - up from $8trn (£5.8trn) on the 2020 list.

“The top ten richest are worth $1.15trn (£830bn), up by two-thirds from $686bn (£497bn) last year,” said Forbes’ Kerry A. Dolan. “Altogether, Europe’s billionaires are $1trn (£720bn) richer than a year ago.” There are a “record high” 493 newcomers on the Forbes list, “roughly one new billionaire every 17 hours”.

World’s richest people

According to the Forbes Real Time Billionaires (as of 6 July 2021)

1. Jeff Bezos: $201.8bn

The former hedge fund manager started Amazon in his garage in 1994. Bezos has invested heavily in space technology too, and also owns The Washington Post newspaper. He has stepped down as Amazon CEO and takes on the new role of executive chair.

2. Bernard Arnault and family: $187.1bn

Arnault is the wealthiest European on the list. The Frenchman oversees an empire of more than 70 brands including Louis Vuitton and Sephora.

3. Elon Musk: $167.3bn

Musk is the CEO of Tesla and the founder and CEO of SpaceX. He divides his time between SpaceX, Tesla and projects like Hyperloop, a proposed ultra-high-speed train line.

4. Bill Gates: $128.9bn

The Microsoft founder has been a permanent fixture near the top of the rich list for the past 20 years, despite selling and then giving away much of his stake in the company. He now owns just 1% and focuses predominantly on his philanthropic work.

5. Mark Zuckerberg: $127.7bn

Zuckerberg made his fortune after launching Facebook in 2004 at the age of 19, while studying psychology and computer science at Harvard University.

6. Larry Page: $108.9bn

Internet entrepreneur Page is one of the co-founders of Google. He stepped down as CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. in December 2019 but remains a board member.

7. Larry Ellison: $106.8bn

The American business magnate is co-founder, chairman and chief technology officer of Oracle. He owns around 35.4% of the software giant.

8. Sergey Brin: $105.4bn

Along with Larry Page, Brin was a co-founder of Google. Until December 2019, he was president of Alphabet Inc.

9. Warren Buffett: $101.3bn

Now in his ninth decade, the Berkshire Hathaway chief executive, known as the “Oracle of Omagh”, is one of the most successful investors of all time. Like Gates, he has pledged to give away more than 99% of his fortune to charity.

10. Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and family: $86.7bn

Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the richest woman in the world, is the granddaughter of L’Oréal founder Eugene Schueller.

Who is the richest person of all time?

With a fortune of around $400bn, Mansu Musa 1 of Mail, the first king of Timbuktu, may not be a household name, but by most estimates is the richest person who ever lived.

Deriving his wealth from his country’s vast salt and gold deposits, which at one time accounted for half the world’s supply, Musa ruled West Africa’s Malian Empire in the early 14th century, constructing hundreds of mosques across the continent, many of which survive to this day.

With a fortune estimated at between $300-$400bn in today’s money, Tsar Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov (Nicolas II) of Russia was deposed and subsequently executed by the Bolsheviks in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution.

The Independent notes that, following his canonisation by the Russian Orthodox Church, he is also the richest saint in history.

Excluding kings, princes and those who inherited their wealth, the list of the world’s richest-ever men - and they are always men - is dominated by the so-called robber barons of 19th and early 20th century America.

Often cited as the richest person who ever lived, oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller was the first person to have a net worth of over $1bn in the money of the time.

At the time of this death his estate was worth an estimated $340bn in today’s money, almost 2% of total US economic output.

With an estimated fortune of $310bn in today’s money, steel magnate and Rockefeller contemporary Andrew Carnegie sold his Carnegie Steel Company to JP Morgan for $480m in 1901, and later made his name with his philanthropic donations.

Automobile pioneer Henry Ford, who perfected the production line and has become a by-word for American entrepreneurship, had a fortune of around $199bn at the time of his death in 1947.

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