World’s richest begin 2024 $2.2 trillion better off

By Jordan Fitzgerald

The world’s 500 wealthiest people have begun 2024 with fortunes bolstered by a combined surge in net worth of $US1.5 trillion ($2.2 trillion) through last year, in a rebound in 2023 from the $US1.4 trillion lost in 2022, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Once again, their fortunes were closely correlated to the performance of tech stocks, which rose to fresh records in 2023 despite recession fears, lingering inflation, lofty interest rates and geopolitical turmoil. Tech billionaires’ wealth grew by 48 per cent or $US658 billion ($966 billion), propelled by intense hype around artificial intelligence.

LVMH’s Bernard Arnault (left) and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos are vying for second place on the global rich list.
LVMH’s Bernard Arnault (left) and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos are vying for second place on the global rich list.Credit: Bloomberg

No one did better than Elon Musk, who recaptured the title of world’s richest person from French luxury tycoon Bernard Arnault. The Tesla chief executive officer netted an additional $US95.4 billion to the end-of-year close, bolstered by the success of Tesla and SpaceX, after losing $US138 billion in 2022. His net worth is now more than $US50 billion above Arnault’s after a global slowdown in demand for luxury goods dented shares of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos begins the year with more than $US70 billion extra in his wallet and is now neck and neck with Arnault for second place, while Meta Platforms chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune has jumped by more than $US80 billion.

The rising tide left some boats behind. Indian billionaire Gautam Adani lost $US21 billion on January 27 alone in 2023 – and $US37.3 billion across the whole year – after short-seller Hindenburg Research tanked the value of the Adani Group. Nevertheless, he still possesses an 11-figure fortune.

What does the world hold in store for the wealthiest people this year? While it’s impossible to know for sure — few would have foreseen such a large rebound in 2023 — here are some of the names to watch:

Miriam Adelson

Adelson, 78, became the majority shareholder of casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp after her husband Sheldon’s death in 2021. After lying low for a time, Adelson this year reached a deal to buy a $US3.5 billion majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks and courted Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. Her net worth climbed to $US34.3 billion.

Miriam Adelson and late husband Sheldon await Donald Trump’s arrival at a campaign rally in 2020.
Miriam Adelson and late husband Sheldon await Donald Trump’s arrival at a campaign rally in 2020.Credit: AP
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Francoise Bettencourt Meyers

The world’s richest woman, Francoise Meyers Bettencourt.
The world’s richest woman, Francoise Meyers Bettencourt.Credit: Getty

As the heir to the L’Oreal fortune, Bettencourt Meyers, 70, is the richest woman on the planet and the first to possess a 12-figure net worth. Bettencourt Meyers’ success comes as a result of France’s thriving beauty and fashion industries, which have also thrust LVMH’s Arnault, Chanel’s Wertheimer brothers and the Hermes family into the realm of the ultrawealthy. Her fortune begins the year 40 per cent up after L’Oreal’s shares climbed to a record high over 2023.

Steve Cohen

The founder of Point72 Asset Management is all in on New York dynasties — old and new. Cohen, 67, owns the News York Mets and is attempting to revitalise the baseball franchise after years of lacklustre performance. He’s also partnering with Hard Rock International in an attempt to secure one of the state’s limited new casino licenses, giving beleaguered Mets fans the chance to gamble their sorrows away. His wealth rose to $US13.9 billion in 2023.

Mark Cuban

Cuban, 65, has a knack for getting out at the right time, selling his radio-streaming website Broadcast.com shortly before the dot-com bubble burst. He purchased the Dallas Mavericks in 2000 for $US285 million and won three division titles, two conference championships and an NBA championship before flipping them to Adelson for $US3.5 billion. (He’ll keep a minority stake.) Whether this goes down as another well-timed Cuban sale remains to be seen. He begins the year with an extra $US6.8 billion.

Carl Icahn

It was a rough year in 2023 for the activist investor after short-seller Hindenburg Research initiated a meltdown that wiped $US18.1 billion from his fortune, including more than $US10 billion in just one day. Still, 87-year-old Icahn has a lot of fight left in him. He intends to launch a new proxy battle to take control of Illumina’s board, according to people familiar with the matter, after the DNA-sequencing company terminated a costly acquisition that Icahn had criticised.

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch has handed over the News Corp reins to son Lachlan.
Rupert Murdoch has handed over the News Corp reins to son Lachlan.Credit: Rob Latour/Shutterstock

The 92-year-old News Corp founder has officially retired and ceded control to son Lachlan. It’s set to be a rocky year for the heir as candidates including Joe Biden and Donald Trump vie for the presidency again.

Fox News already settled with Dominion Voting Systems for $US787.5 million after the company accused the network of airing false claims that it rigged the vote against Trump. Fox still faces another lawsuit by Smartmatic in a similar case. The controversy hasn’t dented Rupert Murdoch’s net worth, which rose to $US8.9 billion in 2023.

Masayoshi Son

The Japanese investor made a big bet on WeWork, which officially crumpled in 2023, and people are questioning his judgment after he continued to pour money into Adam Neumann’s remote-work business even after it was clearly struggling. The SoftBank Group founder, 66, is likely to struggle further as deals dry up. But he’s pulled himself out of deeper holes before, climbing back after losing tens of billions of dollars in the dot-com crash. Son’s wealth fell to $US11.4 billion this year.

Donald Trump

The former president and current candidate may have lost the 2020 election, but his wallet has only gained. His wealth has grown by ​​$US500 million since 2021, giving him a total net worth of $US3.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Still, 2024 will be a battle for Trump, 77, as he defends himself in lawsuits related to his defamation of author E. Jean Carroll, alleged fraud as well as his attempts to overturn the 2020 election – all while running for president.

Changpeng ‘CZ’ Zhao

In many ways, 2023 was a rough year for the 46-year-old founder of Binance, the world’s biggest crypto exchange. In November, CZ and Binance pleaded guilty to money laundering and US sanctions violations. He agreed to step down as CEO and personally pay a $US50 million fine in addition to the $US4.3 billion Binance will have to fork over. Still, the rebound in crypto boosted CZ’s wealth by nearly $US25 billion, even as he may be headed to jail this year.

Bloomberg

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