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The World’s Richest People Lost $2 Trillion Last Year, According to Reports

Inflation, the war in Europe and a rollercoaster stock market are all at play.

Elon Musk, founder and chief engineer of SpaceX speaks at the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition March 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

That old saying “Nothing gold can stay” turns out to be true—even if you’re sitting on a lot of gold.

From Elon Musk to Mark Zuckerberg, the world’s wealthiest people collectively lost $1.9 trillion in 2022, according to a Forbes estimate. The losses stem from the past 12 months of a fluctuating stock market, war in Europe and rampant inflation. But who was affected most?

Long answer short: the world’s 300 or so tech billionaires. Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg have all seen billions wiped away from their net worths. Collectively, the sector’s biggest players lost more than $1 trillion in 2022, Forbes reports. Why? After the pandemic boom and investors drove up tech stocks and startup valuations over the last few years, they’ve now started to plummet. Companies are now slashing costs, laying off workers and delaying IPOs to stay afloat.

Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos
Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos Courtesy of Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Amazon shares have dropped by nearly 50 percent, which has knocked more than $80 billion off Jeff Bezos’s net worth. Microsoft stock plunged by 27 percent in December as well, denting the pockets of its co-founder Gates and its former CEO Steve Ballmer. Zuckerberg, the Facebook co-founder, also lost more than half his wealth last year after rebranding his company to Meta. While the entrepreneur was worth a bonkers $142 billion in 2021, he now ranks just 24th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with assets totaling $48.8 billion.

Elon Musk lost the most in 2022, however, after his disastrous acquisition of Twitter. The billionaire’s net worth primarily stems from his automotive business Tesla, and he also is the CEO of rocket maker SpaceX. Last month, LVMH’s Bernard Arnault replaced him as the world’s richest person. After Bloomberg reported that Musk may replace some of Twitter’s debt with a personal margin loan, Tesla shares opened trading the following day down by one percent. In other words, investors weren’t too happy about that. His net worth now sits at $130 billion, down from $280 billion year-over-year. 

American billionaires, specifically, have collectively lost roughly $660 billion this year, Forbes claims. Unfortunately for them, stateside entrepreneurs like Nike cofounder Phil Knight (down $18.3 billion), former Estee Lauder boss Leonard Lauder (minus $9.8 billion) rank among the US citizens who had the “worst” 2022.

Facebook and Meta co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook and Meta co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg Courtesy of Stefani Reynolds/CNP

Covid-19 challenges and slumping consumer demand also caused Chinese billionaires’ wealth to collectively drop by a dizzying $620 billion. The country’s biggest losers include magnate Jack Ma (down $13.1 billion) who owns the e-commerce company Alibaba. The war in Ukraine has meant Russia’s highly sanctioned oligarchs have lost $150 billion. 

Though it may have humbled a few of the ultra-wealthy, 2022 also saw new billionaires emerge including sports entrepreneur Todd Boehly and designer Tom Ford. The latter finally closed on a $2.8 billion deal with Estee Lauder in November that brought the duo’s 17 years of partnership, on beauty and fragrance offerings, full circle. Indian billionaire Gautam Adani may have had the best 2022 of all, Forbes says, after his company Adani Group spiked in value and added $55.1 billion to his net worth over the past 12 months. Adani is currently the world’s third richest person, after Arnault and Musk, with a $133.9 billion fortune. 

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