Billionaires play an outsized role in shaping the global economy, politics, and philanthropy. Forbes puts the number of billionaires in the world at 2,668 in 2022. The wealthiest among them is Bernard Arnault; the chairman of LVMH.
The individuals on this list belong to an even more exclusive club and wield still more power. Many are founders of technology giants, with much of their wealth still invested in the companies they started.
These billionaires can, however, still borrow against that wealth to avoid selling stock, deferring (or eliminating for heirs) taxes on unrealized capital gains in the process. Multi-billionaires can also take advantage of a panoply of tax deductions to offset reported income, leaving some on this list paying no income tax in recent years.
With so much of their wealth in publicly traded stocks, the net worth of the richest can fluctuate with market valuations. For example, Tesla CEO Elon Musk saw his net worth surge in 2021 thanks to the increase in the electric car maker's share price. Tesla shares rose nearly 50% in 2021.
And like a pendulum, his net worth dropped in 2022 due to the falling share price of Tesla, of which he owns 13%. Musk also had to sell many of his shares in Tesla to fund his acquisition of Twitter. This resulted in him losing the top spot of the richest person in the world to Bernard Arnault.
Tesla's share price moved upwards in January and February 2023, allowing Musk to take the top spot of the richest person in the world once again, but as markets fluctuate, he is currently the second-richest person in the world.
Similarly, Meta Platforms (META) founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg fell out of the top 10 in February 2022, when the company's share price plunged after a disappointing earnings report. Zuckerberg's net worth was reported to be $64.4 billion in March 2023.
Below are the 10 wealthiest people on the planet, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. All figures are current as of March 2, 2023, unless otherwise stated.
- Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH, is the richest person and the richest man in the world with a net worth of $186 billion.
- After Arnault is the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk.
- Other billionaires with some of the largest net worths include Mexico's Carlos Slim, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft's Bill Gates.
- Seven of the top 10 billionaires made their fortunes in technology, with Arnault, Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett, and America Movil's Carlos Slim being the exceptions.
- Meta's Mark Zuckerberg dropped off the top 10 list in February 2022.
1. Bernard Arnault
- Age: 73
- Residence: Paris
- CEO and Chair: LVMH (LVMUY)
- Net Worth: $186 billion
- Christian Dior Ownership Stake: 97.5% ($148 billion total)
- Other Assets: Moelis & Company equity ($27.9 billion public asset) and $10.7 billion in cash
French national Bernard Arnault is the chair and CEO of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury goods company. LVMH brands include Louis Vuitton, Hennessey, Marc Jacobs, and Sephora.
Most of Arnault's wealth comes from his massive stake in Christian Dior SE, the holding company that controls 41.2% of LVMH. His shares in Christian Dior SE, plus an additional 6.2% in LVMH, are held through his family-owned holding company, Groupe Familial Arnault.
An engineer by training, Arnault first showed his business acumen while working for his father’s construction firm, Ferret-Savinel, taking charge of the company in 1971. He converted Ferret-Savinel to a real estate company named Férinel Inc. in 1979.
Arnault remained Férinel's chair for another six years, until he acquired and reorganized luxury goods maker Financière Agache in 1984, eventually selling all its holdings other than Christian Dior and Le Bon Marché. He was invited to invest in LVMH in 1987 and became the majority shareholder, chair of the board, and CEO of the company two years later.
2. Elon Musk
- Age: 51
- Residence: Texas
- Co-founder and CEO: Tesla
- Net Worth: $184 billion
- Tesla Ownership Stake: 13% ($70 billion)
- Other Assets: Space Exploration Technologies ($48.9 billion private asset), The Boring Company ($3.33 billion private asset), Twitter ($10.5 billion private asset)
Elon Musk is the second-richest man in the world. He was born in South Africa and attended a university in Canada before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned bachelor's degrees in physics and economics. Two days after enrolling in a graduate physics program at Stanford University, Musk deferred attendance to launch Zip2, one of the earliest online navigation services. He reinvested a portion of the proceeds from this startup to create X.com, the online payment system that was sold to eBay (EBAY) and ultimately became PayPal Holdings (PYPL).
In 2004, Musk became a major funder of Tesla Motors (now Tesla), which led to his current position as CEO of the electric vehicle company. In addition to its line of electric automobiles, Tesla produces energy storage devices, automobile accessories, and, through its acquisition of SolarCity in 2016, solar power systems. Musk is also CEO and chief engineer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), a developer of space launch rockets.
In 2020, Tesla shares soared 740% to propel Musk up the wealth rankings. In December 2020, Tesla joined the S&P 500, becoming the largest company added. In January 2021, Musk became the richest person in the world—a title he held till December 2022, when his net worth fell due to a decrease in Tesla's share price over the year. He reclaimed the top spot again in March 2023.
Musk asked his Twitter audience on Nov. 6, 2021, whether he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock, framing the issue as a response to criticism of unrealized capital gains as a means of avoiding taxes. He proceeded to sell shares worth $16.4 billion over the remainder of 2021.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, cited a media report that Musk paid no income tax for 2018 to argue for the adoption of a wealth tax. "And if you opened your eyes for two seconds, you would realize I will pay more taxes than any American in history this year," Musk responded on Twitter.
Thanks to the surge in Tesla shares in 2021 and private transactions boosting the reported valuation of SpaceX, Musk's lead in the global wealth rankings continued to grow. His net worth hit a high of $340 billion in November 2021.
In April 2022, Musk began a campaign to take Twitter private, which culminated in a $44 billion buyout. Musk planned to fund the deal with $21 billion of his own capital. In the run-up to the buyout announcement, Musk sold 9.6 million shares of Tesla, valued at roughly $8.5 billion.
In July 2022, Musk decided to back out of the Twitter buyout. Twitter filed a lawsuit against Musk to force the buyout to go through. Musk countersued the company but then reversed course and declared he was willing to buy Twitter after all. The deal officially closed in October 2022, giving him an almost 80% stake in the company.
3. Jeff Bezos
- Age: 59
- Residence: Washington
- Founder and Executive Chair: Amazon (AMZN)
- Net Worth: $116 billion
- Amazon Ownership Stake: 10% ($91.5 billion)
- Other Assets: Blue Origin ($11.2 billion private asset), The Washington Post ($250 million private asset), and $12.8 billion in cash
In 1994, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com in a garage in Seattle, shortly after he resigned from the hedge fund giant D.E. Shaw. He had originally pitched the idea of an online bookstore to his former boss David E. Shaw, who wasn’t interested.
Though Amazon originally started out selling books, it has since morphed into a one-stop shop for everything under the sun and is expected to overtake Walmart as the world’s largest retailer by 2024. Amazon's pattern of constant diversification is evident in some of its unexpected expansions, which include acquiring Whole Foods in 2017 and entering the pharmacy business the same year.
Bezos owned as much as 16% of Amazon in 2019 before transferring 4% to his former wife, MacKenzie Scott, as part of their divorce proceedings. In 2020, Amazon’s share price jumped 76% on the heightened demand for online shopping amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 5, 2021, Bezos stepped down as CEO of the e-commerce giant, becoming its executive chair.
Bezos originally took Amazon public in 1997 and went on to become the first man since Bill Gates in 1999 to achieve a net worth of more than $100 billion. Bezos’ other projects include aerospace company Blue Origin, The Washington Post (which he purchased in 2013), and the 10,000-year clock—also known as the Long Now.
On July 20, 2021, Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and Dutch student Oliver Daemen completed Blue Origin's first successful crewed flight, reaching an altitude of more than 66 miles before landing safely. Bezos' wealth peaked at $211 billion in the same month.
4. Bill Gates
- Age: 67
- Residence: Washington
- Co-founder: Microsoft (MSFT)
- Net Worth: $113 billion
- Microsoft Ownership Stake: 1.4% ($25.4 billion)
- Other Assets: $57.4 billion in cash and billions over multiple other companies
While attending Harvard University in 1975, Bill Gates went to work alongside his childhood friend Paul Allen to develop new software for the original microcomputers. Following this project’s success, Gates dropped out of Harvard during his junior year and founded Microsoft with Allen.
The largest software company in the world, Microsoft, also produces a line of personal computers, provides email services through its exchange server, and sells video game systems and associated game devices. It has recently invested heavily in cloud services.
Gates shifted from the company's CEO to the role of board chair in 2008. He joined Berkshire Hathaway’s board in 2004. He stepped down from both boards on March 13, 2020.
Bill Gates has much of his net worth in Cascade Investment LLC. Cascade is a privately-held investment vehicle that owns a variety of stocks including Canadian National Railway (CNR), Deere (DE), and Republic Services (RSG), as well as private investments in real estate and energy.
5. Warren Buffett
- Age: 92
- Residence: Nebraska
- CEO: Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A)
- Net Worth: $106 billion
- Berkshire Hathaway Ownership Stake: 14% ($105 billion)
- Other Assets: $1.15 billion in cash
The most famous living value investor, Warren Buffett filed his first tax return in 1944 at age 14, declaring earnings from his boyhood paper route. He first bought shares in a textile company called Berkshire Hathaway in 1962, becoming the majority shareholder by 1965. Buffett expanded the company's holdings to insurance and other investments in 1967.
Widely known as the Oracle of Omaha, Buffett is a buy-and-hold investor who built his fortune by acquiring undervalued companies. More recently, Berkshire Hathaway has invested in large, well-known companies. Its portfolio of wholly owned subsidiaries includes interests in insurance, energy distribution, and railroads as well as consumer products.
Buffett is a notable Bitcoin skeptic.
Buffett has dedicated much of his wealth to philanthropy. Between 2006 and 2020, he gave away $41 billion—mostly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and his children’s charities. Buffett launched the Giving Pledge alongside Bill Gates in 2010.
Now 92 years old, Buffett still serves as CEO, but in 2021 he hinted that his successor might be Gregory Abel, head of Berkshire’s non-insurance operations.
6. Larry Ellison
- Age: 78
- Residence: Hawaii
- Co-founder, Chair, and CTO: Oracle (ORCL)
- Net Worth: $100 billion
- Oracle Ownership Stake: 40%+ ($72.4 billion)
- Other Assets: Tesla equity ($9.13 billion public asset), $18.2 billion in cash
Larry Ellison was born in New York City to a 19-year-old single mother. After dropping out of the University of Chicago in 1966, Ellison moved to California and worked as a computer programmer. In 1973, he joined the electronics company Ampex, where he met future partners Ed Oates and Bob Miner. Three years later, Ellison moved to Precision Instruments, serving as the company’s vice president of research and development.
In 1977, Ellison founded Software Development Laboratories alongside Oates and Miner. Two years later, the company released Oracle, the first commercial relational database program to use Structured Query Language. The database program proved so popular that SDL would change its name to Oracle Systems Corporation in 1982. Ellison gave up the CEO role at Oracle in 2014 after 37 years. He joined Tesla's board in December 2018 and stepped down in June 2022.
Oracle is the world's second-largest software company, providing a wide variety of cloud computing programs as well as Java and Linux code and the Oracle Exadata computing platform.
Oracle has acquired numerous large companies, including human resources management systems provider PeopleSoft in 2005, customer relationship management applications provider Siebel in 2006, enterprise infrastructure software provider BEA Systems in 2008, and hardware-and-software developer Sun Microsystems in 2009. In December 2021, Oracle agreed to buy medical records software provider Cerner (CERN) for $28.3 billion in cash.
Long known for extravagant spending, Ellison has invested heavily in luxury real estate over the last decade. Perhaps his single most impressive acquisition was the $300 million purchase of nearly the entire Hawaiian island of Lanai in 2012, where the billionaire has lived since 2020. Ellison has built a hydroponics farm and a luxury spa on the island.
Ellison has focused his philanthropy on medical research. In 2016, he gave $200 million to the University of Southern California for a new cancer research center. Ellison backed the Oracle Team USA sailing team, which won the America's Cup racing series in 2010 and 2013.
7. Steve Ballmer
- Age: 66
- Residence: Washington
- Owner: Los Angeles Clippers
- Net Worth: $88.1 billion
- Microsoft Ownership Stake: 4% ($78.6 billion total)
- Other Assets: Los Angeles Clippers ($3.73 billion private asset), $5.8 billion in cash
Steve Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 after Bill Gates convinced him to drop out of Stanford University's MBA program. He was Microsoft's 30th employee. Ballmer went on to succeed Gates as Microsoft CEO in 2000. He held the position until stepping down in 2014. Ballmer oversaw Microsoft's 2011 purchase of Skype for $8.5 billion.
Ballmer owns an estimated 4% of Microsoft, making him the software giant's largest individual shareholder. In 2014, shortly after stepping down as Microsoft CEO, Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team for $2 billion.
Ballmer lived in the same dorm and on the same floor as Bill Gates while the two attended Harvard University. The brotherly relationship between the two became strained when Ballmer started pushing the tech company into hardware, such as the Surface tablet and the Windows mobile phone, during his tenure as CEO.
8. Carlos Slim
- Age: 83
- Residence: Mexico
- Owner: America Movil
- Net Worth: $86.5 billion
- America Movil Ownership Stake: Majority ($44.4 billion total)
- Other Assets: Cash ($8.28 billion), Inmuebles Carso ($6.68 billion), Grupo Carso ($8.76 billion), Grupo Financiero ($8.02 billion)
Carlos Slim derives the bulk of his wealth from his majority stake in America Movil, a telecommunications company based in Mexico City. He also has large stakes in the holding company Grupo Carso and the banking and insurance company Grupo Financiero. Additional holdings include many other publicly traded companies.
A large portion of his stakes in these companies has been transferred to his six children and he has received billions of dollars in dividends from his holdings in the various public companies he has ownership in.
9. Larry Page
- Age: 49
- Residence: California
- Co-founder and Board Member: Alphabet (GOOG)
- Net Worth: $85.1 billion
- Alphabet Ownership Stake: 6% ($70.5 billion total)
- Other Assets: $14.6 billion in cash
Like several of the tech billionaires on this list, Larry Page embarked on his path to fame and fortune in a college dorm room. While attending Stanford University in 1995, Page and his friend Sergey Brin came up with the idea of improving Internet data extraction. The duo devised a new search engine technology they dubbed Backrub after its ability to assess links to a page.
From there, Page and Brin went on to found Google in 1998, with Page serving as CEO of the company until 2001, and again between 2011 and 2019.
Google is the world's dominant Internet search engine, accounting for more than 92% of global search requests. In 2006, the company purchased YouTube, the top platform for user-submitted videos.
After acquiring Android in 2005, Google released the Android mobile phone operating system in 2008. Google reorganized in 2015, becoming a subsidiary of Alphabet, a holding company.
Page was among early investors in Planetary Resources, a space exploration and asteroid-mining company. Established in 2009, the company was acquired by blockchain firm ConsenSys in 2018 amid funding problems. He has also shown an interest in flying car companies, investing in both Kitty Hawk and Opener.
Shares of Google soared almost 50% in 2021, moving Page and Brin up the billionaire list. Page's net worth went from just below $52 billion in March 2020 to the current $86.9 billion.
10. Sergey Brin
- Age: 49
- Residence: California
- Co-founder and Board Member: Alphabet (GOOG)
- Net Worth: $81.4 billion
- Alphabet Ownership Stake: 6% ($66.7 billion total)
- Other Assets: $14.7 billion in cash
Sergey Brin was born in Moscow, Russia, moving to the U.S. with his family when he was six in 1979. After co-founding Google with Larry Page in 1998, Brin became Google's president of technology when Eric Schmidt took over as CEO in 2001. He held the same post at the Alphabet holding company after it was established in 2015, stepping down in 2019 when Sundar Pichai took over as CEO.
In addition to its dominant internet search engine, Google offers a suite of online tools and services known as Google Workspace, which includes Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Meet, Google Chat, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and more. Google also offers a variety of electronic devices, including Pixel smartphones, computers, and tablets, Nest smart home devices, and Stadia gaming platform.
Brin has donated millions of dollars to Parkinson’s disease research, partnering with The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Who Are the Top 10 Richest People in the World?
The top 10 richest people in the world are:
- Bernard Arnault
- Elon Musk
- Jeff Bezos
- Bill Gates
- Warren Buffett
- Larry Ellison
- Steve Ballmer
- Carlos Slim
- Larry Page
- Sergey Brin
Who Is the World's Richest Man in 2023?
As of March 2, 2023, the world's richest man is Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH.
Who Is the Richest Woman in the World?
The richest woman in the world is Francoise Bettencourt Meyers. As of March 2023, her net worth is $79.1 billion. Her net worth is derived from her holdings in L'Oreal, the world's largest cosmetics company.
The Bottom Line
If you want to get a little closer to making the richest billionaires rankings, you might need to become a technological innovator or luxury retail mastermind. Or you could keep it simple and focus on value investing.
It also wouldn’t hurt to have been born into wealth; however, the greatest fortunes on this list started as good ideas that people with creativity, drive, and connections used to build some of the world's largest companies.