Billionaires play an outsized role in shaping the global economy, politics, and philanthropy. Forbes puts the number of billionaires in the world at 2,668 in 2022. The wealthiest among them belong to an even more exclusive club and wield still more power. Many of these billionaires are founders of technology giants, with much of their wealth still invested in the companies they started.
They can, however, still borrow against that wealth to avoid selling stock, deferring (or eliminating for heirs) taxes on unrealized capital gains in the process. Multi-billionaires can also take advantage of a panoply of tax deductions to offset reported income, leaving some on this list paying no income tax in recent years.
With so much of their wealth in publicly traded stocks, the net worth of the richest can fluctuate with market valuations. For example, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla Inc. (TSLA) and the richest person in the world saw his net worth surge in 2021 thanks to the increase in the share price of Tesla (where he currently owns 17% of the company)—with Tesla shares rising nearly 50% in 2021.
In contrast, Meta Platforms Inc. (FB) founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg fell out of the top 10 in February 2022, when Meta’s share price plunged after a disappointing earnings report. Zuckerberg’s net worth is down $40 billion in 2022.
Below are the 10 wealthiest people on the planet as of the same date, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
- Elon Musk, the co-founder and CEO of Tesla, is the richest person in the world with a net worth of $273 billion.
- Behind Musk is the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, with an estimated net worth of $188 billion.
- Billionaires with the largest increases in their wealth in 2021 included Musk, LVMH Chair and CEO Bernard Arnault, Google co-founder Larry Page, and L’Oreal heir Francoise Bettencourt Meyers.
- Seven of the top 10 billionaires made their fortunes in technology, with Arnault, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, and Adani Group founder Gautam Adani the exceptions.
1. Elon Musk
- Age: 50
- Residence: Texas
- Co-founder and CEO: Tesla
- Net Worth: $273 billion
- Tesla Ownership Stake: 17% ($187 billion)
- Other Assets: Space Exploration Technologies ($40.3 billion private asset), $5.7 billion in cash
Elon Musk was born in South Africa and attended a university in Canada before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and economics. Two days after enrolling in a graduate physics program at Stanford University, Musk deferred attendance to launch Zip2, one of the earliest online navigation services. He reinvested a portion of the proceeds from this startup to create X.com, the online payment system that was sold to eBay Inc. (EBAY) and ultimately became PayPal Holdings Inc. (PYPL).
In 2004, Musk became a major funder of Tesla Motors (now Tesla), which led to his current position as CEO of the electric vehicle company. In addition to its line of electric automobiles, Tesla also produces energy storage devices, automobile accessories, and, through its acquisition of SolarCity in 2016, solar power systems. Musk is also CEO and chief engineer of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), a developer of space launch rockets.
In 2020, Tesla shares soared 740% to propel Musk to push Muck up the wealth rankings. In December 2020, Tesla joined the S&P 500, becoming the largest company added. In January 2021, Musk became the richest person in the world (a title he’s held since).
In a Nov. 6, 2021 tweet, Musk asked his Twitter audience whether he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock, framing the issue as a response to criticism of unrealized capital gains as a means of avoiding taxes. He proceeded to sell shares worth $16.4 billion over the remainder of 2021.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, has cited a media report that Musk paid no income tax for 2018 to argue for the adoption of a wealth tax. “And if you opened your eyes for 2 seconds, you would realize I will pay more taxes than any American in history this year,” Musk responded on Twitter.
Thanks to the surge in Tesla shares in 2021 and private transactions boosting the reported valuation of SpaceX, Musk’s lead in the global wealth rankings has continued to grow. His net worth hit a high of $340 billion in November 2021. Musk’s net worth has increased by 60% over the last year (as of Apr. 1, 2022).
2. Jeff Bezos
- Age: 58
- Residence: Washington
- Founder and Executive Chair: Amazon (AMZN)
- Net Worth: $188 billion
- Amazon Ownership Stake: 10% ($163 billion)
- Other Assets: Blue Origin ($9.15 billion private company stake), The Washington Post ($250 million private asset), and $15.6 billion in cash
In 1994, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com in a garage in Seattle, shortly after he resigned from the hedge fund giant D.E. Shaw. He had originally pitched the idea of an online bookstore to his former boss David E. Shaw, who wasn’t interested.
Though Amazon.com originally started out selling books, it has since morphed into a one-stop shop for everything under the sun and is arguably the world’s largest retailer. Amazon’s pattern of constant diversification is evident in some of its unexpected expansions, which include acquiring Whole Foods in 2017 and entering the pharmacy business the same year.
Bezos owned as much as 16% of Amazon in 2019 before transferring 4% to former wife MacKenzie Scott as part of the divorce proceedings. In 2020, Amazon’s share price jumped 76% on the heightened demand for online shopping amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 5, 2021, Bezos stepped down as CEO of the e-commerce giant, becoming its executive chair.
Bezos originally took Amazon public in 1997 and went on to become the first man since Bill Gates in 1999 to achieve a net worth of more than $100 billion. Bezos’ other projects include aerospace company Blue Origin, The Washington Post(which he purchased in 2013), and the 10,000-year clock—also known as the Long Now.
On July 20, 2021, Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and Dutch student Oliver Daemen completed Blue Origin’s first successful crewed flight, reaching an altitude of more than 66 miles before landing safely. Bezos’ wealth peaked at $211 billion in the same month.
3. Bernard Arnault
- Age: 73
- Residence: Paris, France
- CEO and Chair: LVMH (LVMUY)
- Net Worth: $148 billion
- Christian Dior Ownership Stake: 97.5% ($120 billion total)
- Other Assets: Moelis & Company equity ($22.6 billion public asset), Hermès equity (undisclosed stake), and $10.7 billion in cash
French national Bernard Arnault is the chair and CEO of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury goods company. LVMH owns brands including Louis Vuitton, Hennessey, Marc Jacobs, and Sephora.
Most of Arnault’s wealth comes from his massive stake in Christian Dior SE, the holding company that controls 41.3% of LVMH. His shares in Christian Dior SE, plus an additional 6.2% in LVMH, are held through his family-owned holding company, Groupe Familial Arnault.
An engineer by training, Arnault first showed his business acumen while working for his father’s construction firm, Ferret-Savinel, taking charge of the company in 1971. He converted Ferret-Savinel to a real estate company named Férinel Inc. in 1979.
Arnault remained Férinel’s chair for another six years, until he acquired and reorganized luxury goods maker Financière Agache in 1984, eventually selling all its holdings other than Christian Dior and Le Bon Marché. He was invited to invest in LVMH in 1987 and became the majority shareholder, chair of the board, and CEO of the company two years later.
4. Bill Gates
- Age: 66
- Residence: Washington
- Co-founder: Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)
- Net Worth: $133 billion
- Microsoft Ownership Stake: 1.3% ($31.9 billion)
- Other Assets: Cascade Investment LLC ($59.2 billion public assets), $56.9 billion in cash
While attending Harvard University in 1975, Bill Gates went to work alongside his childhood friend Paul Allen to develop new software for the original microcomputers. Following this project’s success, Gates dropped out of Harvard during his junior year and went on to found Microsoft with Allen.
The largest software company in the world, Microsoft also produces its line of personal computers, publishes books through Microsoft Press, provides email services through its Exchange server, and sells video game systems and associated peripheral devices. Originally Microsoft’s chief software architect, Gates shifted to the role of board chair in 2008. He had joined Berkshire Hathaway’s board in 2004. He stepped down from both boards on March 13, 2020.
Bill Gates has much of his net worth in Cascade Investment LLC. Cascade is a privately-held investment vehicle that owns a variety of stocks including Canadian National Railway (CNR), Deere (DE), and Republic Services (RSG), as well as private investments in real estate and energy.
In 2000, Gates’ two philanthropic organizations—the William H. Gates Foundation and the Gates Learning Foundation—merged to create the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, still co-chaired by Gates and his ex-wife, Melinda French Gates. Through the foundation, they have spent billions to fight polio and malaria. The foundation pledged $50 million in 2014 to help fight Ebola. As of 2021, the foundation had spent more than $1.9 billion to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2010, alongside Warren Buffett, Bill Gates launched the Giving Pledge, a campaign encouraging the wealthy to commit to donating most of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Bill and Melinda French Gates divorced on Aug. 2, 2021. With the divorce, roughly $5 billion in equities were transferred to French Gates.
5. Warren Buffett
- Age: 91
- Residence: Nebraska
- CEO: Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A)
- Net Worth: $127 billion
- Berkshire Hathaway Ownership Stake: 16% ($126 billion)
- Other Assets: $1.15 billion in cash
The most famous living value investor, Warren Buffett filed his first tax return in 1944 at age 14, declaring earnings from his boyhood paper route. He first bought shares in a textile company called Berkshire Hathaway in 1962, becoming the majority shareholder by 1965. He expanded the company to insurance and other investments in 1967. Now Berkshire Hathaway is a $705 billion-dollar market cap company, with a single share of stock (Class A shares) trading at more than $527,760 as of April 1, 2022.
Widely known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Buffett is a buy-and-hold investor who built his fortune by acquiring undervalued companies. More recently, Berkshire Hathaway has invested in large, well-known companies. Its portfolio of wholly owned subsidiaries includes interests in insurance, energy distribution, and railroads as well as consumer products. Buffett is a noted Bitcoin skeptic.
Buffett has dedicated much of his wealth to philanthropy. Between 2006 and 2020, he gave away $41 billion—mostly to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and his children’s charities. Buffett launched the Giving Pledge alongside Bill Gates in 2010.
Buffett, 91 years old, still serves as CEO, but in 2021 he hinted at who might be his successor—Gregory Abel. Abel is the head of Berkshire’s non-insurance operations.
6. Larry Page
- Age: 48
- Residence: California
- Co-founder and Board Member: Alphabet (GOOG)
- Net Worth: $125 billion
- Alphabet Ownership Stake: 6% ($109.6 billion total)
- Other Assets: $14.9 billion in cash
Like several tech billionaires on this list, Larry Page embarked on his path to fame and fortune in a college dorm room. While attending Stanford University in 1995, Page and his friend Sergey Brin came up with the idea of improving internet data extraction. The duo devised a new search engine technology they dubbed “Backrub,” named after its ability to analyze “backing links.” From there, Page and Brin went on to found Google in 1998, with Page serving as CEO of the company until 2001, and again between 2011 and 2019.
Google is the dominant internet search engine, accounting for more than 92% of global search requests. In 2006, the company purchased YouTube, the top platform for user-submitted videos. After acquiring Android, Inc. in 2005, Google released the Android mobile phone operating system in 2008. Google reorganized in 2015, becoming a subsidiary of Alphabet, a holding company.
Page was among early investors in Planetary Res, a space exploration and asteroid-mining company. Established in 2009, the company was acquired by blockchain firm ConsenSys in 2018 amid funding problems. He has also shown an interest in “flying car” companies, investing in both Kitty Hawk and Opener. Shares of Google soared almost 50% in 2021, moving Page and Brin up the billionaire list. Page’s net worth went from just below $52 billion in March 2020 to the current $125 billion.
7. Sergey Brin
- Age: 48
- Residence: California
- Co-founder and Board Member: Alphabet (GOOG)
- Net Worth: $119 billion
- Alphabet Ownership Stake: 6% ($104.4 billion total)
- Other Assets: $15 billion in cash
Sergey Brin was born in Moscow, Russia, moving to the U.S. with his family as a 6-year-old in 1979. After co-founding Google with Larry Page in 1998, Brin became Google’s president of technology when Eric Schmidt took over as CEO in 2001. He held the same post at the Alphabet holding company after it was established in 2015, stepping down in 2019 when Sundar Pichai took over as CEO.
In addition to its dominant internet search engine, Google offers a suite of online tools and services known as Google Workspace, which includes Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Meet, Google Chat, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and more. Google also offers a variety of electronic devices, including Pixel smartphones, computers, and tablets, Nest smart home devices, and Stadia gaming platform.
Brin spent much of 2019 focusing on X, Alphabet’s research laboratory responsible for innovative technologies like Waymo self-driving cars and Google Glass smart glasses. He has also donated millions of dollars to Parkinson’s disease research, partnering with The Michael J. Fox Foundation. Brin’s wealth has grown by over 25% in the last year.
8. Steve Ballmer
- Age: 66
- Residence: Washington
- Owner: Los Angeles Clippers
- Net Worth: $108 billion
- Microsoft Ownership Stake: 4% ($98.8 billion total)
- Other Assets: Los Angeles Clippers ($3.16 billion private asset), $5.93 billion in cash
Steve Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 after Bill Gates convinced him to drop out of Stanford University’s MBA program. He was Microsoft’s 30th employee. Ballmer went on to succeed Gates as Microsoft CEO in 2000. He held the position until stepping down in 2014. Ballmer oversaw Microsoft’s 2011 purchase of Skype for $8.5 billion.
Ballmer owns an estimated 4% of Microsoft, making him the software giant’s largest individual shareholder. In 2014, shortly after stepping down as Microsoft CEO, Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team for $2 billion.
Ballmer lived in the same dorm and on the same floor as Bill Gates while the two attended Harvard University. The “brotherly” relationship between the two became strained when Ballmer started pushing the tech company into hardware, such as the Surface tablet and the Windows mobile phone, during his tenure as CEO.
9. Larry Ellison
- Age: 77
- Residence: Hawaii
- Co-founder, Chair and CTO: Oracle (ORCL)
- Net Worth: $103 billion
- Oracle Ownership Stake: 40% ($68.4 billion)
- Other Assets: Tesla equity ($16.3 billion public asset), $17.6 billion in cash and real estate
Larry Ellison was born in New York City to a 19-year-old single mother. After dropping out of the University of Chicago in 1966, Ellison moved to California and worked as a computer programmer. In 1973 he joined the electronics company Ampex, where he met future partners Ed Oates and Bob Miner. Three years later, Ellison moved to Precision Instruments, serving as the company’s vice president of research and development.
In 1977, Ellison founded Software Development Laboratories (SDL) alongside Oates and Miner. Two years later, the company released Oracle, the first commercial relational database program to use Structured Query Language. The database program proved so popular that SDL would change its name to Oracle Systems Corporation in 1982. Ellison gave up the CEO role at Oracle in 2014 after 37 years. He joined Tesla’s board in December 2018.
Oracle is the world’s second-largest software company, providing a wide variety of cloud computing programs as well as Java and Linux code and the Oracle Exadata computing platform. Oracle has acquired numerous large companies, including human res management systems provider PeopleSoft in 2005, customer relationship management applications provider Siebel in 2006, enterprise infrastructure software provider BEA Systems in 2008, and hardware-and-software developer Sun Microsystems in 2009. In December 2021, Oracle agreed to buy medical records software provider Cerner Corp. (CERN) for $28.3 billion in cash.
Ellison, long known for extravagant spending, has invested heavily in luxury real estate over the last decade. Perhaps his single most impressive acquisition was the $300 million purchase of nearly the entire Hawaiian island of Lanai in 2012, where the billionaire has lived since 2020. Ellison has built a hydroponics farm and a luxury spa on the island.
Ellison has focused his philanthropy on medical research. In 2016, he gave $200 million to the University of Southern California for a new cancer research center. Ellison backed the Oracle Team USA sailing team, which won the America’s Cup racing series in 2010 and 2013.
10. Gautam Adani
- Age: 59
- Residence: Gurgaon, India
- Founder and Chair: Adani Group
- Net Worth: $100 billion
- Adani Enterprises, Power. and Transmissions Ownership Stakes: 75% each ($51.3 billion)
- Other Assets: 65% of Adani Green Energy ($23.4 billion public asset), 61% of Adani Green Energy ($24.3 billion public asset), 37% of Adani Total Gas ($12.2 billion public asset)
Gautam Adani, the founder of Adani Group, surpassed Mukesh Ambani in March 2022 as the richest person in Asia. Adani, via his ownership of Adani Group, owns major stakes in six key Indian companies, including a 75% stake in Adani Enterprises, Adani Power, and Adani Transmissions, as well as a 65% stake in Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone, 61% stake in Adani Green Energy, and 37% stake in Adani Total Gas.
The combined market cap of companies owned by the Adani Group is $179 billion (as of Apr. 1, 2022). Adani entered the power generation market in 2009 with Adani Power. Adani created Adani Enterprises in 1988 to import and export commodities. In 1994, his company was granted approval to develop a harbor facility at Mundra Port, which is now the largest private port in India.
Adani dropped out of college and previously worked in the diamond trade. Now, Adani has the largest port operator, closely-held thermal coal producer, and coal trader in India. In 2020, he purchased a 74% stake in the second-busiest airport in India, Mumbai International Airport. The billionaire was kidnapped and held for ransom in 1997. Adani was also in Mumbai’s Taj hotel during the 2008 terrorist attack.
The Bottom Line
If you want to get a little closer to making the richest billionaires rankings, you might need to become a technological innovator or luxury retail mastermind. Or you could keep it simple and focus on value investing. It also wouldn’t hurt to have been born to wealth. However, the greatest fortunes on this list started as good ideas that people with creativity, drive, and connections used to build some of the world’s largest companies.