It’s not just Amazon stock that has boosted the fortunes of its billionaire backer. Dramatic changes in the share prices of Tesla, Reliance and Microsoft have reshuffled the ranks of the top ten richest in the world since March.
Between last Friday afternoon after markets closed and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Jeff Bezos’ net worth fell by $8 billion. That’s a huge sum — the combined value of the NFL’s New England Patriots ($4.1 billion) and the New York Giants ($3.9 billion). But for Bezos, who’s worth about $181 billion, it was just a routine couple of days on the job —and a 4.4% decline in his fortune.
Since March 18, the date that Forbes used to calculate net worths for the 2020 World’s Billionaires list, and days after the President declared a national emergency due to the coronavirus, Amazon’s stock price has soared nearly 69%. As shoppers who sheltered at home during the pandemic turned to Amazon for ordering more purchases, its market cap reached a record $1.5 trillion, and Bezos’ fortune jumped $68 billion. Even with the slight downtick in the last two days, investors aren’t worried – mostly chalking it up to portfolio rebalancing, or momentum stocks retreating a bit after a strong run.
Bezos is not the only billionaire to get much richer during the pandemic. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has gone from No. 31 wealthiest in the world in mid-March to No. 9 as of Tuesday. His net worth has nearly tripled in the last four months, to $69.1 billion from $24.6 billion, largely due to a massive 320% rally in Tesla’s stock. It’s the first time Musk ranks among the world’s top ten richest. “I really couldn’t care less,” Musk told Forbes in early July, commenting on the size of his fortune. “Those numbers rise and fall, but what really matters is making great products that people love.”
Another big gainer of the past several months is Mukesh Ambani, an Indian business magnate and chairman of Reliance Industries, whose telecom firm Reliance Jio has attracted billions of dollars in investments in 2020, including $5.7 billion from Facebook in April and $1.2 billion from U.A.E.’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala in June. On July 15 Google confirmed it would invest $4.5 billion in Jio. That, in turn, has helped lead to a surge in the share price of Reliance. Ambani is now the seventh richest person in the world, worth $71.4 billion, nearly twice his net worth in mid-March. The last time Ambani was in the top 10 was in 2011, with a $27 billion fortune.
Also new to the top ten since March: Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft. Microsoft stock is up a striking 47% since mid March, landing Ballmer at the world’s No. 6 richest, worth $72.1 billion.
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Musk and Ballmer join the upper echelon, while Buffett falls to his lowest rank in at least 20 years.
Of course, as some climb up the ranks, others must go down – and some go up and down a lot. Bernard Arnault was worth $108 billion in late January. He fell to $76 billion in mid March, as people worried about spending on luxury goods. He is back up to $111.1 billion, and number three in the world.
Despite only a $3.5 billion drop in his net worth since March, Warren Buffett, one of the most successful investors of all time, is down four spots and now the eighth richest person in the world. It’s the lowest Buffett has ranked in at least 20 years. The Waltons, the family behind Walmart, had three members – Jim Walton, Alice Walton and Rob Walton – who rounded out the top ten in mid-March. While their net worths on Tuesday were actually up $3 billion, those increases were not enough for them to hold onto their spots as others including Musk, Ambani and Ballmer surged ahead.
The only certainty with markets like this is that billions can be gained – and lost – and regained in a matter of hours.
– Angel Au-Yeung, Forbes Staff, Billionaires