Real-time, net worth data from Bloomberg and Forbes’ latest list of the world wealthiest people identify the following five individuals as being the richest on the planet. We note though that this list is dynamic and because, for example, the top three’s net worth are relatively close, it’s possible they could switch places by moving up or down on the list as happened only recently with Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates and with Gates and Bernard Arnault. Looking at the top-five they all have certain attributes in common – innovative ideas, disciplined, a commitment to their respective companies and all five also founded (or co-founded) their own companies and continue to take an active management role.
At a net worth of c. $110bn, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is currently the world’s richest man. Bezos is a former hedge fund manager, who started Amazon in 1994 as an online book seller in his garage. Although Amazon.com originally sold only books, it has morphed into arguably the world’s biggest retailer selling anything shoppers can imagine. Bezos took Amazon public in 1997 and has since gone on to become the first man since Gates to achieve a net worth of over $100bn. Bezos became the world’s richest man in 2018 (with his net worth [mostly consisting of his c. 12% Amazon stake] at that stage standing at c. $160bn,), ending Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ 24-year run in the number one spot. Bezos also owns an aerospace company called Blue Origin and The Washington Post newspaper (which he bought in 2013).
After reporting disappointing 3Q19 results on 24 October, Amazon’s share price dropped c. 7% in after-hours trading and Bezos briefly lost the title of the world’s richest man (dropping to number-two with a $103.9bn fortune) and Gates replaced him at the top spot. However, Amazon’s share price has since recovered and is down only c. 2% from the day it released third-quarter results, while Bezos is back in first position.
Gates is currently the world’s second-richest man although, as mentioned, he has been bumped to the number three spot on a few occasions recently by Luxury conglomerate LVMH’s CEO and Chairman Bernard Arnault. The LVMH share price has been on a tear following news that the Paris-based company was looking at purchasing US jeweler, Tiffany. Nevertheless, as it currently stands Gates’s fortune is estimated at $109bn placing him in second spot. He has been a permanent fixture at the top of Forbes’ list for over two decades, debuting in 1987 on Forbes’ first-ever billionaire list with a net worth at that stage of $1.25bn. Gates has sold or given away most of his stake in Microsoft (he owns just 1%) and focuses predominantly on philanthropic work.
A French national and engineer by training, Arnault is the only European and one of the lesser-known names among the top-five. He is worth $101.2bn – $68bn more than he was in 2016, according to Forbes. Arnault became chairman of LVMH in 1989, and owns 47% of the company’s shares with his family although his own investments are reportedly broad and include technology concerns and yacht companies. LVMH owns more than 70 luxury brands which includes Louis Vuitton, Dior, Bulgari, Marc Jacobs, Givenchy, Sephora etc. Although LVMH’s c. $245bn market cap pales in comparison with Microsoft’s $1.1trn and Amazon’s $865.4bn, its share price has rocketed 52.8% YTD. From 3 October to 21 November 2019, the share price has gained c. 14%. Bezos, Arnault and Gates are the only centibillionaires on the list – those possessing a net worth of $100bn or higher.
In fourth spot, Warren Buffett with a c. $86bn fortune is arguably one of the most well-known names among the top-five. At 89, Buffet is also known as the Oracle/Sage of Omaha, because of his knack for value investing and he is still the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (which owns companies such as Geiko, Duracell and Dairy Queen). Like Gates, Buffet has pledged to give away more than 99% of his fortune to charity. He and Gates launched the Giving Pledge in 2010, asking billionaires to commit to donating half their wealth to charitable causes.
Finally, in fifth position, Mark Zuckerberg is now the fifth-richest man in the world with an estimated net worth of c. $75bn. Zuckerberg co-founded Facebook in 2004 at the age of 19, when he was studying at Harvard (he dropped out before finishing his studies there). The initial idea behind it was for students to match names with photos of classmates. Facebook was listed in May 2012 and currently has 2.41bn monthly active users. It is also the world’s third most-visited website after Google and YouTube, according to HootSuite. Zuckerberg still owns c. 15% of company stock, although he and his wife have pledged to give away 99% of their Facebook stake over their lifetimes.