Elon Musk tops world’s rich list as crypto billionaires race up the rankings
Tesla CEO and Pretoria-born Elon Musk is far and away the richest person in the world, according to the recently published Hurun Global Rich List 2022, with a total personal fortune of $205 billion (more than R3 trillion).
Musk’s astonishing rise to become not just the world’s richest person, but the first to crack a personal fortune north of $200 billion, was powered by the extraordinary rise of electric vehicle market leader Tesla.
Tesla sold 936 000 cars in 2021 – 87% higher than the 2020 figure. Last year Tesla struck a deal to sell 100 000 vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, the largest ever deal for electric vehicles.
It took Tesla just 11 years to crack a market cap of $1 trillion, giving it a market value higher than the combined value of the nine largest car manufacturers, including General Motors, Ford, Toyota and VW.
Tesla’s valuation seems to defy conventional logic, and has attracted some heavyweight short-sellers, including Michael Burry of The Big Short fame. The Tesla stock price is off a third from its $1 200 peak in January.
Tesla is ranked the world’s sixth largest company with a market cap of $1.03 trillion, behind online retailer Amazon, with a market cap of $1.68 trillion.
The next richest …
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is ranked by Hurun as the world’s second richest person with a fortune valued at $188 billion.
Third on the list is Bernard Arnault, CEO of luxury goods company LVMH, who saw his wealth climb 34% to $153 billion over the last year.
Microsoft founder and once the world’s richest person, Bill Gates, despite his divorce from Melinda, managed to increase his wealth 13% to amass a fortune of $124 billion. (Ex-wife Melinda made the Hurun list in her own right with $11 billion.)
Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet had a respectable year, clocking in at number five on the list of the world’s richest, adding 31% to his total haul of $119 billion – most of this powered by the rising tide of the stock market.
Next on the list are Google parent Alphabet’s founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, with $116 billion apiece.
Hurun says there are now 10 billionaires worth more than $100 billion, representing a huge concentration of economic power.
Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, comes in eighth place with $107 billion, followed by Mukesh Ambani, MD of India’s largest company Reliance Industries. Ambani is worth around $100 billion, as is 10th-placed Bertrand Puech, scion of the Hermes luxury goods company.
Ambani is currently competing with Bezos to take control of a US$3.4 billion retail group in India owned by former Indian billionaire Kishore Biyani. Ambani also announced his foray into green energy by announcing a US$8 billion plan to set up four gigafactories for solar, battery and hydrogen manufacturing.
Space race for billionaires
Billionaires are splashing their wealth on space exploration.
Musk’s SpaceX was reckoned to have about 45% of the commercial space launch contracts in the world in 2017, while space rival Bezos launched Blue Origin in 2000 with a view to monetising space rocketry.
Virgin founder Richard Branson tried out his own vehicle when in July 2021 he flew his Unity rocket plane to the edge of space, the first space tourism flight of its kind and one that is now being sold for $250 000 a pop.
Japanese fashion billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, 46, became the first space tourist to visit the International Space Station in more than a decade.
The report shows 17 new crypto billionaires were minted in 2021. Top of the pile is Binance founder CZ Zhao Changpeng, whose $23 billion fortune rose $15 billion over the year. Binance is the world’s largest crypto exchange, a remarkable success story for a company that was founded just five years ago.
Sam Bankman-Fried, aged just 30, has amassed a fortune of $22 billion (which doubled over the year) through his holdings in crypto exchange FTX.
Coinbase has likewise made a clutch of millionaires, chief among them Brian Armstrong, with a reported stake of 19% in the company which operates a cryptocurrency exchange platform. That stake was worth about $10 billion, down substantially from its peak at listing nearly a year ago.
Top ‘rich list’ countries
China has 17% of the world’s population and 34% of the world’s ‘known’ billionaires, up from 30% last year. Of the roughly 60 living outside of Greater China, the preferred residences were South East Asia, especially Singapore, and the US.
China continued to pull away from the US in terms of billionaires, adding 75 to reach 1 133.
The US was second with 716 billionaires, up 20.
China and the US have 55% of the known billionaires on the planet.
India added 38 to solidify its third place, while the UK overtook Germany for fourth. Russia dropped down one place to eighth, with 72 billionaires – down 13, on the back of the collapse of the rouble and sanctions since the Russia-Ukraine war.
India’s billionaires have been doubling every five years, with now more than 200 in India. Interestingly, the proportion of non-resident Indian billionaires on the Hurun Global Rich List has halved over the past five years compared with onshore billionaires.
Only five billionaires donated more than $1 billion in the past year, says Hurun.
“Billionaires are not keeping up with philanthropy, making money much faster than they are giving it away.”
South Africans appearing on the list include Johann Rupert, who saw his fortune increase by more than half to $10 billion over the last year, De Beers alumni Nicky Oppenheimer (worth $8.1 billion), Naspers’s Koos Bekker ($2.6 billion), Patrice Motsepe of African Rainbow Minerals ($2.3 billion) and Capitec’s Michiel le Roux ($1.6 billion).