Few would disagree that it's great to be rich. But common sense also tells us that having an abundance of wealth also means there's a lot more to lose during the pinch of poor economic times. In the recession of the late 2000s, with stock market dips and real estate values plunging, a handful of the nation's richest people lost a lot. As you saw your 401(k) and savings accounts drop thousands of dollars, here are five billionaires who lost millions - some even billions - during the recession.

IN PICTURES: Top 5 Reasons Why People Go Bankrupt

Sheldon Adelson, Gambling Titan
Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE:LVS) and the company's largest shareholder, has experienced a few tumultuous years of financial highs and lows. In 2007, Forbes ranked Adelson as the third-richest man in America and his net worth was valued at $28 billion. At his low in 2009, Adelson's fortune had shrunk to $5.7 billion. However, one year later, in 2010, the American billionaire, whose dynasty includes Las Vegas' The Venetian and Sands Expo and Convention Center, has bounced back to $14.7 billion, making him the 13th richest man in the country.

Robert Johnson, Founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET)
Robert Johnson - founder of BET - made history in 2001 when he became the first African-American billionaire after his network was sold to the media giant Viacom (NYSE:VIA). A year later, a pricey divorce from his wife and BET co-founder, Sheila, cost him a reported $400 million. Then, in 2009, Johnson had another unfortunate fiscal downturn: he lost $550 million as his stake in Viacom stock plummeted and his investment firm, RLJ Companies, took a hit from its real estate ventures. (We show you how to hit the millionaire mark step by step, check out The Millionaire's Retirement Plan.)

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook
Even Facebook prodigy Mark Zuckerberg didn't go unaffected by the financial crisis. In 2008, at the ripe age of 23 and with a net worth of $1.5 billion, Mark Zuckerberg was named the world's youngest billionaire by Forbes. But just a year later, Zuckerberg lost $600 million, forcing him off the prestigious list of business mavens. However, by 2010, Zuckerberg had quickly climbed back up the billionaire ranks. He's now valued at $6.9 billion.

Bill Gates, Founder and CEO of Microsoft
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who holds the spot at the world's second wealthiest man with an estimated net worth of $53 billion, saw his fortunes shrink during the Great Recession, as technology companies and the stock market nosedives took a toll. From 2008 to 2009, Gates lost $18 billion, as his net worth declined from $58 billion to $40 billion.

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
Legendary investor Warren Buffett, currently the world's third wealthiest man, saw his assets nearly cut in half during the height of the recession. In 2008, Buffett's net worth was an estimated $62 billion, but one year later it fell to $37 billion as the stock of his company, Berkshire Hathaway, slipped nearly 50%. Buffett regained his positioning in 2010 with a reported net worth of $47 billion.

IN PICTURES: Debunking 10 Budget Myths

How About the Rest of America?
As these billionaire scions watched half of their fortunes practically evaporate into thin air, many Americans fared better - at least on a percentage basis. According to a study by the Rockefeller Foundation and Yale University, about a quarter of those surveyed suffered earnings drops of at least 25% during the recession. Though most would agree that the monetary recovery for the average American has not been as quick as it has for these billionaires.

Related Articles
  1. Savings

    Best Places to Exchange Currency in Chicago

    Whether you're leaving the Windy City or arriving with a stack of foreign cash, these are your best bets for currency exchange.
  2. Active Trading Fundamentals

    The 4 Biggest Private Equity Firms in London

    Discover information about the largest private equity firms that are headquartered in London, ranked by total assets under management.
  3. Retirement

    Retirement Planning for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

    If your business has receiveables, here's a smart way to leverage them to build up your retirement fund fast.
  4. Investing

    The 8 Best Business and Finance T.V. Shows

    With so many talking heads to choose from, which is the right show for your business and money matter needs? We review the best shows on now.
  5. Active Trading Fundamentals

    The Biggest Private Equity Firms in San Francisco

    Learn about some of the larger private equity firms with a presence in San Francisco, including KKR, the Blackstone Group and Warburg Pincus.
  6. Active Trading Fundamentals

    The Companies of Peter Theil's Founders Fund

    Learn about the major public companies that Peter Thiel has invested in and companies that are on the verge of going public at multibillion-dollar valuations.
  7. Active Trading Fundamentals

    The Biggest Private Equity Firms in Los Angeles

    Learn why Los Angeles is a thriving market for private equity, and identify the five largest private equity firms operating in the city.
  8. Entrepreneurship

    What Does Bootstrap Mean?

    The term bootstrap refers to launching and building a business with little capital and no funding from outside sources.
  9. Entrepreneurship

    Top 5 Startups That Emerged in Denver

    Learn why Denver is one of the hottest markets in America for startups, and identify five of the top startups that are emerging from the Denver market.
  10. Entrepreneurship

    How Does ClassPass Work and Make Money?

    Find out how ClassPass makes money, how the company aims to help both businesses and consumers, and why it has been so successful.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Venture Capitalist

    An investor who either provides capital to startup ventures or ...
  2. Freelancer

    A freelancer is an individual who earns money on a per-job or ...
  3. Donation-based Crowd Funding

    Donation-based crowdfunding is a way to source money for a project ...
  4. Steve Cohen

    A trading magnate also referred to as the Hedge Fund King and ...
  5. David Tepper

    A legendary investor who specializes in distressed debt and manages ...
  6. David Einhorn

    Known for his short selling strategy, activist investor David ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. Can I buy insurance to reduce unlimited liability in a partnership?

    Partnership insurance is actually quite common. Most of the time, partners buy insurance to safeguard against the possibility ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are the benefits of prorating expenses?

    When a person prorates expenses between personal and business expenses, he is able to capture the maximum amount of tax benefits ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the relationship between research and development and innovation?

    Although it's possible to achieve innovation without research and development and it's possible to conduct research and development ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does the notion of the American Dream influence the US economy?

    The notion of the American Dream influences the U.S. economy because it creates the driving force behind the free enterprise ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do venture capitalist investors view sustainable growth in a startup?

    Venture capitalist investors view sustainable growth in a startup as necessary when considering investing in it. Typically, ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How can I protect my business from my spouse during a high net worth divorce?

    For high net worth individuals (HNWIs), deciding to end a marriage through divorce brings special circumstances to consider. ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!