Jeff Bezos, Mukesh Ambani, Elon Musk, and other billionaire wealth gainers of the pandemic
‘The rich get richer and the poor get poorer’ is an aphorism derived from English poet PB Shelley’s A Defence of Poetry written in 1821.
But even 200 years later, the statement couldn’t have been any truer.
Even as the world faces its worst economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, with global stock markets tanking, currencies plunging, tens of millions of jobs being lost, and a massive humanitarian crisis unfolding in front of us, the ultra-rich continue to get richer.
They have remained unscathed by the socio-economic disruptions caused by the pandemic. Between March and May, the world’s top 25 billionaires accumulated over $255 billion in wealth, according to Forbes. Further, 29 new billionaires were added in the last three months, the wealth tracker found.
In June, their net worths surged further, and US billionaires alone were estimated to have gained a whopping $565 billion since the start of the lockdown, according to the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness. That is an increase of 20 percent, the study announced.
America’s top five billionaires saw their wealth soar by $101.7 billion since the start of the pandemic. These are owners or business heads of giant companies that have a presence across the globe. Even minor fluctuations in their market cap can result in swift inflation (or the reverse) in personal fortunes.
Here are some of the world’s biggest wealth gainers during COVID-19.
Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos is the richest man in history. He’s been the leader of the billionaire pack since 2017, and despite minor fluctuations in wealth following his much-publicised divorce with Mackenzie Bezos in 2019, the Amazon founder retains the top spot.
Despite giving away $36 billion as part of his divorce settlement, Bezos’ wealth has swelled riding on Amazon’s growth. He has added $46.4 billion to his wealth since March, and his net worth is now estimated to be $161 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Bezos derives his fortune from his 15.1 percent share in Amazon; the company stock has gained nearly 31 percent in 2020, riding on a surge in online orders as hundreds of millions of people stayed locked in due to the pandemic.
Elon Musk is the 20th richest person in the world with a fortune of $46.9 billion. The Tesla founder has added $19.3 billion to this wealth this year.
His wealth accumulation is riding on Tesla’s soaring stock that has gained a whopping 73 percent since the beginning of 2020. Musk owns close to 19 percent stake in the electric vehicle company, which has wooed investors and remained insulated from the coronavirus shocks in the market.
Earlier in June, Tesla stock hit a record high of $1,000 making the founder richer by $2 billion overnight. As CNBC described it, “Musk has added a Marc Benioff and a Rupert Murdoch to his wealth just in 2020.”
Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani
Mukesh Ambani has had a memorable 2020, entering the coveted top 10 billionaire’s club last week, riding on an unprecedented Rs 1.16 lakh crore investment spree in Reliance Industries’ digital arm - Jio Platforms.
The homegrown billionaire has added $5.79 billion to his wealth this year, and his fortune is worth $64.4 billion. Ambani is currently the world’s eighth richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Besides a series of billion-dollar investments in Jio, the petroleum-to-telecom conglomerate also completed a Rs 53,000-crore rights issue in May. As a result, Reliance stock gained 6.5 percent on the BSE in the last two months, pushing Ambani’s wealth up further.
Eric Yuan, the Founder of video communications startup Zoom, was almost unheard of until 2020. But the pandemic served as the biggest inflection point for the Silicon Valley upstart, which has become the default remote collaboration tool for hundreds of millions of users across the globe.
Zoom shares have gained 130 percent, becoming NASDAQ’s best performing stock of 2020. The company’s valuation now stands at $70 billion, and the Chinese-American billionaire has added $9.42 billion to his wealth this year.
Yuan is currently ranked 115th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with an estimated net worth of $13 billion.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg was the second biggest wealth gainer of 2020 until recently. The Facebook CEO saw his net worth grow 45 percent to $86 billion, making him the third richest person in the world — after Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.
However, Zuckerberg lost $7.2 billion overnight dropping to the fourth place on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The wealth erosion was caused by an ad boycott on Facebook by leading MNCs, including HUL, Starbucks, and more.
The social media giant saw $56 billion wiped off its market cap, as shares tanked 8.3 percent. Zuckerberg is worth $82.3 billion at present, with a net year-to-date addition of $3.9 billion in 2020.
Steve Ballmer with NR Narayanamurthy
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has added $12.2 billion to his wealth growing it to $70.9 billion at the end of June. He’s the world’s fifth richest person as per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Ballmer is still Microsoft’s biggest shareholder, ahead of even Bill Gates, who’s donated a significant portion of his wealth to charity. The rise in demand for the software giant’s video collaboration platforms Microsoft Teams and Skype after the pandemic has resulted in a stock gain of 15 percent.
In the last five years, after Ballmer quit Microsoft board, his net worth has more than tripled. He is also the owner of professional basketball team Los Angeles Clippers, which has a valuation of $2.2 billion.
Tencent CEO Pony Ma | Photo: Fortune
Tencent CEO Pony Ma became China’s richest person surpassing Alibaba Founder Jack Ma in June. The former has added $10.3 billion to his fortune this year, and is currently ranked 19th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Pony Ma, who owns seven percent in Tencent, has a net worth of $49 billion. His swelling wealth is a result of the $40 billion surge in the online gaming giant’s valuation last week. Tencent, which owns popular titles like PUBG, Clash of Clans, and Honour of Kings, has reported a boom in gaming revenues in 2020.
Additionally, the company stock surged riding on its venture arm Tencent Holding’s investment in rapidly-growing ecommerce platform Pinduoduo.
Photo: South China Morning Post
Colin Huang is possibly the least well-known name on this list.
But the Chinese billionaire, who’s the Founder and CEO of Pinduoduo, saw his fortune grow by $24.6 billion this year as his Tencent-backed company became China's third largest ecommerce platform after Alibaba and JD.com. Huang now ranks 23rd on the billionaires’ list with a net worth of $44.2 billion.
He’s also China’s third-richest person after Tencent’s Pony Ma and Alibaba’s Jack Ma. His wealth gain is the second-highest after that of Jeff Bezos. Meanwhile, NASDAQ-listed Pinduoduo has defied the global stock market crash to record unprecedented growth.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)