The 10 Richest People in the World

Billionaires play a key role in helping influence the world, from political decisions to social and economic reforms. Forbes puts the list of billionaires in the world at 2,755. However, only a handful—10 to be exact—currently have $100 billion or more in net worth. Many of these billionaires are founders of technology companies, with much of their wealth wrapped up in the companies they started.

Note that many billionaires are taxed differently or not at all on their wealth given that much of their gains are unrealized—meaning they haven't sold any stock or equity, and thus, haven't had to pay taxes yet. As well, while some billionaires hold several billion dollars in cash, many also have investments in private assets, such as private companies, real estate, or other public companies.

But since much of the top billionaires' wealth is wrapped up in public equity, their net worth can fluctuate a lot from year-to-year. For example, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla and the richest person in the world as of Dec. 2021, has seen his net worth increase by $142 billion year-to-date (as of Nov. 30, 2021), thanks in large part to the increase in Tesla shares (where he owns 17% of the company)—with shares of Tesla up over 40% year-to-date (as of Nov. 30, 2021).

Below are the 10 individuals currently considered the wealthiest at the time of updating this article—Dec. 2021—according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Key Takeaways

  • Elon Musk, the co-founder and CEO of Tesla, is the richest person in the world with a $311 billion net worth.
  • Behind Musk is the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, with an estimated net worth of $201 billion.
  • Billionaires that have seen the biggest increases in their wealth in 2021 include Elon Musk, Bernard Arnault (LVMH Chair and CEO, and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
  • Eight of the top 10 billionaires operate in the technology space, with only LVMH's Bernard Arnault and Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett being the outliers.

1. Elon Musk

  • Age: 50
  • Residence: Texas
  • Co-founder and CEO: Tesla (TSLA)
  • Net Worth: $311 billion
  • Tesla Ownership Stake: 17% ($193 billion)
  • Other Assets: Space Exploration Technologies ($40.3 billion private assets)

Elon Musk has had his hands in several different companies over the years. Originally enrolled at Stanford University, Musk deferred his attendance to launch Zip2, one of the earliest online navigation services. A portion of the proceeds from this endeavor was then reinvested to create X.com, an online payment system that later became PayPal. While both of these systems were eventually sold to other companies, Musk has maintained his status as CEO and lead designer of his third project, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), which aims to make space exploration more affordable.

In 2004, Musk became a major funder of Tesla Motors (now Tesla), which led to him being retroactively declared a cofounder and his current position as CEO of the electric vehicle company. In addition to its line of electric automobiles—which include sedans, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), and the "Cybertruck" announced in 2019—Tesla also produces energy storage devices, automobile accessories, merchandise, and, through its acquisition of SolarCity in 2016, solar power systems.

In 2020, Tesla’s stock price experienced an astronomical surge—rising over 740%, helping push Musk to the top spot among billionaires. In December 2020, Tesla joined the S&P 500 that same month, the largest company added thus far.

In 2016, Musk founded two more companies, Neuralink and The Boring Company, with him serving as the CEO of the former. Neuralink is developing brain-machine interface devices to help individuals suffering from paralysis and potentially allow users to mentally interact with their computers and mobile devices. The Boring Company, meanwhile, develops boring machines for drilling tunnels for underground public transportation systems, which would mitigate traffic congestion in major cities. It also (briefly) sold a handheld flamethrower.

Elon Musk
Image courtesy Getty Images/Saul Martinez.

On Oct. 25, 2021, shares of Tesla spiked 12.7% and surpassed a $1 trillion market cap after car rental company Hertz announced its plan to order 100,000 of the automaker's electric vehicles. As a result, Tesla CEO Elon Musk's fortune grew by over $36 billion in a single day. Thanks to the surge in Tesla shares and a deal with investors in October 2021 that boosted the valuation of SpaceX, Musk's lead as the richest person in the world continues to grow. As of November 29, 2021, Musk's net worth had grown by $140 billion year-to-date.

2. Jeff Bezos

  • Age: 57
  • Residence: Washinton
  • Founder and Executive Chair: Amazon (AMZN)
  • Net Worth: $201 billion
  • Amazon Ownership Stake: 11% ($173 billion)
  • Other Assets: Blue Origin ($9.15 billion private assets), The Washington Post ($250 million private assets), and $16.1 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.com originally started out selling books, it has since morphed into a one-stop shop for everything under the sun and is arguably the world’s largest retailer. At any rate, it is hard to dispute its self-description as the "Earth's most customer-centric company." Its pattern of constant diversification is evident in some of its unexpected expansions, which include acquiring Whole Foods in 2017 and launching its own branded over-the-counter drugs in Aug. 2017.

In 2020, Amazon’s share price skyrocketed on the heightened demand for online shopping as lockdowns forced consumers to stay home. Shares were up 76% in 2020. On July 5, 2021, Bezos stepped down as CEO of the e-commerce giant and transitioned to his new role as its executive chair.

Jeff Bezos
Image courtesy Getty Images/Alex Wong.

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’s 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 just above 62 miles before landing safely.

3. Bernard Arnault

  • Age: 72
  • Residence: Paris, France
  • CEO and Chair: LVMH (LVMUY)
  • Net Worth: $162 billion
  • Christian Dior Ownership Stake: 97.5% ($133 billion total)
  • Other Assets: Moelis & Company equity ($24.4 billion public assets), Hermès equity (undisclosed stake), Carrefour equity ($749 million public assets), and $9.05 billion in cash

French national Bernard Arnault is the chair and CEO of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury goods company. This business owns some of the biggest brands on Earth, including Louis Vuitton, Hennessey, Marc Jacobs, and Sephora. The majority of his wealth, however, actually 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's business chops became apparent while working for his father’s construction firm, Ferret-Savinel, which he would take control of in 1971. He later converted Ferret-Savinel to a real estate company named Férinel Inc. in 1979.

Bernard Arnault
Image courtesy Getty/Christophe Morin.

Arnault remained Férinel's chair for another six years, until he acquired and reorganized luxury goods maker Financière Agache in 1984, eventually selling all of 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.

4. Bill Gates

  • Age: 65
  • Residence: Washington
  • Cofounder: Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)
  • Net Worth: $135 billion
  • Microsoft Ownership Stake: 1.3% ($34 billion)
  • Other Assets: Cascade Investment LLC ($60 billion public and private assets), $55.7 billion in cash

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 went on to found Microsoft with Allen.

In addition to being the largest software company in the world, Microsoft also produces its line of personal computers, publishes books through Microsoft Press, provides email services through its Exchange server, and sells video game systems and associated peripheral devices. Originally Microsoft's chief software architect, Gates later transitioned to the role of chair in 2008. He had 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 wrapped up in Cascade Investment LLC. Cascade is a privately-held investment vehicle that owns a variety of stocks—such as Canadian National Railway (CNR), Deere (DE), and Republic Services (RSG)—as well as private investments in real estate and energy.

Bill Gates
Image courtesy Getty Images/Jack Taylor.

In 2000, Gates's two philanthropic organizations—the William H. Gates Foundation and the Gates Learning Foundation—were merged to create the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, of which he and his ex-wife, Melinda Gates, are co-chairs. Through the foundation, he has spent billions to fight polio and malaria. Additionally, he pledged $50 million in 2014 to help fight Ebola. As of 2021, the foundation has spent more than $1.8 billion to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2010, alongside Warren Buffett, Bill Gates launched the Giving Pledge, a campaign encouraging rich individuals to commit to donating the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Of note, Bill and Melinda Gates announced plans to divorce on May 3, 2021.

5. Larry Page

  • Age: 48
  • Residence: California
  • Co-founder and Board Member: Alphabet (GOOG)
  • Net Worth: $126 billion
  • Alphabet Ownership Stake: 6% ($112 billion total)
  • Other Assets: $14.4 billion in cash

Like several tech billionaires on this list, Larry Page's claim to fame got its start in a college dorm room. While attending Stanford University in 1995, Page and his friend Sergey Brin came up with the idea of improving data extraction capabilities while accessing the Internet. The duo devised a new type of search engine technology they dubbed "Backrub," named after its ability to analyze "backing links." From there, Page and Brin went on to found Google in 1998, with the former serving as CEO of the company until he stepped down in 2001.

Google is one of the largest Internet search engines on the planet, accounting for more than 70% of global online search requests. In 2006, Google (the company) expanded by purchasing YouTube, the biggest platform for user-submitted videos. Then, 2008 saw the release of the first mobile phone utilizing the Android operating system, which was originally developed by Android Inc. before Google acquired the company in 2005. Today, Google is a subsidiary of Alphabet, a holding company for which Page served as CEO from 2015 to 2019.

Larry Page
Image courtesy Getty Images/Justin Sullivan.

Page is also a founding investor of Planetary Resources, a space exploration, and asteroid-mining company. Originally 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, having invested in both Kitty Hawk and Opener. Shares of Google have soared roughly 64% year-to-date as of Dec. 2, 2021, helping push both Page and Brin up the billionaire list.

6. Sergey Brin

  • Age: 48
  • Residence: California
  • Co-founder and Board Member: Alphabet (GOOG)
  • Net Worth: $122 billion
  • Alphabet Ownership Stake: 6% ($107 billion total)
  • Other Assets: $14.5 billion in cash

What makes Google unique, compared to the other companies featured on this list, is that its co-founders are relatively close in terms of total wealth. Sergey Brin’s involvement in Google follows a similar path to Page’s. After the duo founded the company in 1998, Brin served as co-president alongside Page until Eric Schmidt took over as CEO in 2001. Similarly, after founding Alphabet in 2015, Brin acted as the holding company’s president before stepping down in 2019 when Sundar Pichai took over as CEO.

In addition to being a highly popular search engine, Google also 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. In addition to software, Google also deals in a wide variety of electronic devices, including its Pixel smartphones, its Pixelbook computers and tablets, its Nest smart home devices, and its Stadia gaming platform.

Sergey Brin
Image courtesy Getty Images/Tim Mosenfelder.

Brin spent much of 2019 focusing on X, Alphabet’s moonshot research laboratory, which is responsible for innovative technologies like the Waymo self-driving cars and Google Glass smart glasses. He has also donated millions of dollars toward researching a cure for Parkinson’s and partnered with The Michael J. Fox Foundation to devise new drugs against LRRK2, one of the greatest genetic contributors to the disease.

7. Mark Zuckerberg

  • Age: 37
  • Residence: California
  • Co-founder, CEO, and Chair: Meta (FB)
  • Net Worth: $121 billion
  • Facebook Ownership Stake: 13% ($118 billion)
  • Other Assets: $3.4 billion in cash

Mark Zuckerberg first developed Facebook (now Meta) alongside fellow students Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes while attending Harvard University in 2004. As Facebook began to be used at other universities, Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to focus entirely on his growing business. Today, Zuckerberg is the CEO and chair of Meta, which had more than 2.9 billion monthly active users as of Q3 2021.

Facebook is the world's largest social networking service, enabling its users to create a personal profile, connect with friends and family, join or create groups, and much more. As the website is free to use, most of the company's revenue is generated through advertising.

Meta is also host to several other brands, including photo-sharing app Instagram, which it acquired in 2012; cross-platform mobile messaging service WhatsApp and virtual-reality–headset producer Oculus, both acquired in 2014; Workplace, its enterprise-connectivity platform; Portal, its line of video-calling devices; and Novi, its digital wallet for the Diem payment system.

Mark Zuckerberg
Image courtesy Getty Images/Paul Marotta.

Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, founded the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in 2015, with each of them serving as co-CEO. Their charity seeks to leverage technology to fix societal ills, such as improving the access and quality of education, reforming both the criminal justice system and the U.S. immigration system, improving housing affordability, and eventually eradicating all diseases.

8. Steve Ballmer

  • Age: 65
  • Residence: Washington
  • Owner: Los Angeles Clippers
  • Net Worth: $118 billion
  • Microsoft Ownership Stake: 4% ($110 billion total)
  • Other Assets: Los Angeles Clippers ($2.63 billion private assets), $4.78 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 become CEO of Microsoft in 2000, taking over the position from Bill Gates. He held the position until he stepped down in 2014. As part of his tenure, he oversaw the 2011 purchase of Skype for $8.5 billion.

Ballmer owns an estimated 4% of Microsoft shares, making him the largest individual shareholder of the tech company. In 2014, shortly after stepping down as Microsoft CEO, Ballmer purchased the L.A. Clippers basketball team for $2 billion.

Ballmer lived down the hall from Bill Gates while the two were both attending Harvard University. Their "brotherly" relationship, as described by Ballmer, was strained, however, when Ballmer started pushing the tech company into hardware (e.g. Surface, Windows phone, etc.).

9. Larry Ellison

  • Age: 77
  • Residence: Hawaii
  • Co-founder, CTO, and Chair: Oracle (ORCL)
  • Net Worth: $111 billion
  • Oracle Ownership Stake: 33% ($75.7 billion)
  • Other Assets: Tesla equity ($17.2 billion public assets) and $17 billion in cash

After dropping out of the University of Chicago in 1966, Larry Ellison moved to California and worked as a computer programmer for several companies over the years. First, in 1973, he was an employee of the electronics company Ampex, where he met future partners Ed Oates and Bob Miner. Three years later, Ellison joined Precision Instruments, serving as the company’s vice president of research and development.

By 1977, Ellison founded Software Development Laboratories (SDL) alongside Oates and Miner, which, two years later, released Oracle, the first commercial relational database program to utilize Structured Query Language. The database program proved so popular that SDL would change its name to Oracle Systems Corporation in 1982. Additionally, Ellison joined Tesla's board in Dec. 2018.

Oracle is the second-largest software company and provides a wide variety of cloud computing programs as well as other software, such as Java and Linux, and the Oracle Exadata computing platform. The business has also grown through the acquisition of several major 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.

Larry Ellison
Image courtesy Getty Images/Phillip Faraone.

Ellison has spent millions in luxury real estate over the last decade, predominantly in California. Likely his most impressive expenditure, Ellison bought nearly the entire Hawaiian island of Lanai for $300 million, building a hydroponic farm and luxury spa there. He has also donated millions of dollars to charitable causes over the years, particularly to medical research. Most recently, in 2016, Ellison gave $200 million to the University of Southern California for a new cancer research center.

10. Warren Buffett

  • Age: 91
  • Residence: Nebraska
  • CEO: Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A)
  • Net Worth: $101 billion
  • Berkshire Hathaway Ownership Stake: 39% ($99.5 billion)
  • Other Assets: $1.13 billion in cash

The most famous living value investor, Warren Buffett filed his first tax return in 1944 at age 14, declaring his 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. He expanded the company to insurance and other investments in 1967. Now, Berkshire Hathaway is a half-trillion-dollar company, with a single share of stock (Class A shares) trading at more than $420,000 per share in Dec. 2021.

Widely known as the "Oracle of Omaha," Buffett made the majority of his fortune through purchasing shares in companies with easy-to-understand business operations. While many investors have been piling into tech companies, Buffett has opted for a more cautious approach, only buying from well-established companies that are easier to understand, such as IBM and Apple. He is also a noted Bitcoin skeptic. Additionally, Buffett has also outright purchased a lengthy list of companies over the years, including Dairy Queen, Duracell, GEICO, and Kraft Heinz.

Warren Buffett
Image courtesy Getty Images/Alex Wong.

Outside of investing, Buffett has directed much of his wealth toward philanthropic endeavors. Between 2006 and 2020, Buffett gave away $41 billion—the majority of which went to either the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or his children’s charities. Buffett launched the Giving Pledge alongside Bill Gates in 2010.

The Bottom Line

If you want to get a little closer to making Bloomberg’s richest billionaires list, you might need to become a technological innovator or a retail king. Or you can keep it simple and focus on value investing. It also wouldn’t hurt to start by coming from wealth, as some super-wealthy individuals do. However, the greatest fortunes on this list started as great ideas from people with the creativity, drive, and connections to make them take off.

Article Sources

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