Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and more: billionaire winners and losers of 2019

The world’s richest are no longer insulated from macroeconomic changes. This year, while some like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates added to their bank accounts, others like Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos lost a few billions.

“Only wealth, might, and legendary romances stir people’s curiosity.”

 — Orhan Pamuk (Turkish Nobel Laureate)

Lives of the rich and famous have always intrigued the common man. With multiple billionaire lists released intermittently round the year, you can almost rattle off net worth and valuation figures of the world’s richest.

But, no matter how wealthy these individuals are, none is insulated from global macroeconomic changes and larger market forces.

Because founders, CEOs, 'techpreneurs', and investors own giant stakes in their companies, even minor market fluctuations can erode billions of dollars off their wealth, in quick time.

The Bloomberg Billionaires List, a dynamic year-to-date ranking of the world’s top 500 billionaires, takes into account stock market changes, closing prices of publicly traded companies, and currency exchange rates. 

YourStory scanned through the top 200 to arrive at the biggest gainers and losers over the last one year. (September 6, 2018 to September 6, 2019)

Top 5 Gainers

MacKenzie Bezos 

This year, her divorce from Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos made MacKenzie Bezos the world’s third-richest woman. She gained a fortune of $37.2 billion when a quarter of her ex-husband’s Amazon shares landed in her kitty. MacKenzie now holds 19.7 million shares in one of the world’s most valuable companies, and is worth $37 billion.

Bernard Arnault 

Bernard Arnault is worth $99.4 billion, trailing only Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates in valuation. The French tycoon, who owns the world's largest maker of luxury goods LVMH, gained $30.8 billion in this one-year period. In March 2019, he surpassed Warren Buffett to become the third-richest man. Arnault also happens to be the richest person in Europe.

Mark Zuckerberg 

After a tumultuous 2018 following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook seems to be slowly undoing the damage. This has led to an improvement in its stock prices, allowing CEO Mark Zuckerberg to add $22.3 billion to his fortune. ‘Zuck’ is now worth $74.3 billion and has climbed three places from last year to become the world’s fifth-richest man.

Bill Gates 

The Microsoft founder is the world’s second-richest man, but has significantly narrowed his gap with Jeff Bezos. Some market analysts reckon he will reclaim his #1 spot by the end of the year. Bill Gates has added $16.6 billion this year, and his wealth is now pegged at $107 billion. The software tycoon continues to gain as Microsoft races towards a $1-trillion valuation

Steve Ballmer 

The former Microsoft CEO is richer by $13.3 billion this year, worth $51.9 billion now. Interestingly, Steve Ballmer holds more shares in Microsoft than any other individual. (This is because owner Bill Gates has pledged most of his shares to charity.) Riding on the strong growth of the software giant’s commercial cloud business, Ballmer’s wealth continues to swell. 

Top 5 Losers

Rupert Murdoch 

The media baron shed $10.8 billion in the last one year; his wealth now stands at $7.22 billion. The biggest share of Rupert Murdoch’s fortune came from his largest asset 21st Century Fox, which he sold to Disney in 2019. It resulted in a share-split between Disney and Murdoch, thus bringing his net worth down significantly. 

Jeff Bezos 

Possibly one of the most-reported business stories of 2019 has been Jeff Bezos’s divorce from MacKenzie Bezos, his wife of 25 years. The Amazon founder had to part with one-fourth of his fortune in 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.

Hui Ka Yan 

The Chinese real estate mogul lost $7.98 billion, and is worth $24.3 billion now. Hui Ka Yan is often known as the ‘King of Debt’ because his business empire, the Evergrande Group, is China’s most debt-ridden property developer. With Evergrande’s shares sliding on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Yan’s fortunes have suffered too.

Wang Jianlin 

Wanda Group’s Wang Jianlin, whose real estate conglomerate has been selling assets to cut debt, lost $10.8 billion in 2018, the most among Asians. The Chinese business tycoon continues to shed wealth in 2019, his valuation dropping by $3.46 billion. Jianlin is now worth $14.1 billion. 

Warren Buffett

The Berkshire Hathaway Chairman lost $3.3 billion in the last 12 months; his wealth now stands at $80.5 billion. Buffett’s fortunes took a hit as his company lost billions of dollars owing to a slowdown at Kraft Heinz (a packaged foods-maker it acquired in 2015). “I made a mistake in the Kraft purchase in terms of paying too much,” Buffett told CNBC in June. However, he is still the world’s fourth-richest man, and has pledged $3.6 billion to charity

Given the volatility in the global economy along with mounting bilateral trade tensions, the valuations of large companies and the fortunes of top billionaires could look vastly different by 2020!

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)