Last year was a year of change for the economy, including record-low unemployment rates, ballooning national debt, and increased income inequality. However, 2019 also brought about drastic changes in wealth for some of the world’s richest individuals. According to Forbes, the top five “winners” amassed nearly $112 billion in additional net worth from 2018 to 2019, more than double the increase from 2017 to 2018.
Taking a longer-term view, billionaires have fared much better over the past ten years. Since 2010, the 10 richest people in the world increased their net worth by more than half a trillion dollars. The stock performance was a major reason for the changes in wealth.
The information for this content comes from Forbes’ ranking of Biggest Billionaire Winners and Losers of 2019. In creating their list, the publication analyzed the net worth of more than 2,200 billionaires between December 28, 2018 and December 13, 2019. Only billionaires with investments in publicly traded companies were considered, and their wealth was measured in absolute dollars.
Top 5 Biggest Billionaire Winners of 2019
1- Bernard Arnault
Gain- $40 billion
Net Worth: $107.7 billion
Chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton, Bernard Arnault has had a great year with his wealth booming up by $40 billion. LVMH stocks soared after the conglomerate’s acquisition of Tiffany & Co., and CEO Bernard Arnault briefly surpassed Jeff Bezos as the richest person in the world.
2- Mark Zuckerberg
Gain: $22.1 billion
Net Worth: $72 billion
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg increased his net worth by $22.1 billion in 2019, he had lost $18.7 billion in net worth the previous year. As the 2020 U.S. presidential elections loom large, Zuckerberg continues to attract critics. The company also launched a variety of new initiatives in 2019, including Facebook News and Facebook Dating.
3- Amancio Ortega
Gain: $17.3 billion
Net Worth: $74.9 billion
After a less-than-stellar 2018, the share price of Amancio Ortega’s Inditex, best known for its popular clothing retailer Zara, increased nearly 34% this year. In an interim report in November, the company announced that it had been cutting down operating expenses while expanding Zara’s global presence, adding online stores in South Africa, Colombia, the Philippines and Ukraine. Ortega has about a 60% stake in Inditex, whose brands also include Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear and Bershka.
4- Steve Ballmer
Gain: $16.3 billion
Net Worth: $56.3 billion
Former CEO of Microsoft, Ballmer helped the $1.18 trillion (market capitalization) technology company through tumultuous times from 2000 to 2014. In 2019, Microsoft earnings continued to rise thanks to its presence in commercial cloud services. The firm also announced a buyback plan in September of up to $40 billion in stock and raised its quarterly dividend by 11%, boosting its share price significantly.
5- Mukesh Ambani
Gain: $16.1 billion
Net Worth: $61.4 billion
For the third year in a row, Ambani lands on the list of top gainers. His Reliance Industries— which has stakes in oil, gas, telecom, and retail—had a strong 2019, and is on track to being debt-free by March 31, 2020. Reliance agreed in August to sell a 20% stake in its petrochemicals and oil refining business to Saudi Aramco for $15 billion. It also announced a fuel retailing joint venture with BP in December, which will launch up to 5,500 gas stations across India branded as Jio-BP. Ambani chairs and runs the $90.1 billion (2019 revenue) Reliance Industries.
Top 5 Biggest Billionaire Losers of 2019
1- Azim Premji
Loss: $14.1 billion
Net Worth: $7.2 billion
Azim Premji donated $7.5 billion of his stake in Wipro to his charitable foundation, bucking the notion that a decrease in wealth is always a bad thing. That move brought his lifetime giving to $21 billion, according to his foundation. Upon his father’s death, Premji dropped out of Stanford in 1966 to take over his family’s cooking oil business. He shifted the business into software and expanded the business into $8.5 billion (2019 revenue) Wipro.
2- Jeff Bezos
Loss: $13.1 billion
Net Worth: $109.7 billion
Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame had experienced the biggest increase in net worth in 2018. However, an expensive divorce settlement caused his net worth to decrease significantly in 2019. The Amazon founder had to part with one-fourth of his fortunein what was touted as the “most expensive divorce settlement” in history. However, Bezos continues to be the world’s richest man at a $115-billion valuation, having suffered a drop of $10.4 billion.
3- Subhash Chandra
Loss: $3.4 billion
Net Worth: $660 million
Chairman of Indian media conglomerate Essel Group, Chandra had a rocky 2019. In January, a news report alleged that Essel was linked to a company being probed by India’s Serious Fraud Investigation Office for suspicious transactions; Essel reportedly denied the allegations. Since the beginning of January, the share price of Zee Entertainment Enterprises, one of Essel’s media companies, plummeted 41%. Another Essel Group company, Dish TV India, struggled and its stock price was down 65% in the same time period. The group, which has been divesting some of its assets to repay lenders, sold an 11% stake in Zee Entertainment Enterprises to Invesco Oppenheimer Developing Markets Fund in July for over $600 million.
4- Travis Kalanick
Loss: $3.1 billion
Net Worth: $2.8 billion
The ramifications of Uber’s disastrous IPO in May 2019 took a toll on the wealth of co-founder Travis Kalanick. Shares have fallen by more than 30% since its public debut in May. That pushed down the net worth of former CEO Travis Kalanick, who owned about 8.6% of the company at the IPO. In addition, Kalanick has sold nearly 90% of his Uber shares since the lockup expired in early November. Each time he sells—he’s unloaded more than $2 billion worth of shares—he has to pay state and federal capital gains taxes, another hit to his fortune.
5- Yan Zhi
Loss: $3 billion
Net Worth: $2.1 billion
In August, Yan Zhi’s Zall Smart Commerce Group reported a 74% decrease in profits for the fiscal year ending June 2019. In a letter to investors in September, co-chairman Yan acknowledged the struggles the group has had to face, citing “a period characterized by complex international economic conditions and increasing downward pressure on the domestic economy.”