Fortunes flourished around the world in 2019 as the mega-rich accumulated more wealth than ever.
The 500 richest people in the world added $1.2 trillion to their fortunes this year, boosting their collective net worth to $5.9 trillion, up 25% from 2018, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index which tracks the worlds wealthiest.
Amazon (AMZN) founder and CEO Jeff Bezos remains the richest person in the world despite ending the year down almost $9 billion due to his divorce settlement with MacKenzie Bezos. Amazon shares jumped on Thursday and the company reported record-breaking Christmas sales.
The richest Brit is Jim Ratcliffe, founder and majority owner of London-based Ineos, a closely held chemicals manufacturer. At number 52 on the Bloomberg ranking, he is worth $20.8bn (£15.8bn).
Leading the 2019 gains was Bernard Arnault who grew his fortune by $36.5 billion as he rose to number three on the Bloomberg index and became one of three “centibillionaires” — people with a net worth of at least $100 billion. France's richest person is the chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (MC.PA), the world's largest maker of luxury goods.
The 172 American billionaires on the list added $500 billion between them, with Facebook’s (FB) Mark Zuckerberg up $27.3 billion and Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates up $22.7 billion, coming in at number five and number two respectively.
The number of Chinese billionaires on the list went up to 54 from 40 in 2018. He Xiangjian, founder of China’s biggest air-conditioner exporter, added the most to his fortune as his wealth surged 79% to $23.3bn.
It was a good year for Russia’s richest, despite the threat of heightened sanctions against the country. The 23 billionaires on the list added $52.9bn to their fortunes in 2019, the most in four years. Emerging-market assets from currencies to stocks and bonds rebounded this year after posting big losses in 2018.
Just 52 people on the ranking saw their fortunes decline in 2019.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s personal fortune dropped by about $10bn after he distributed proceeds from The Walt Disney Company’s (DIS) purchase of Fox (FOX) assets to his six children, also making them billionaires in the process.
2019 saw some new entries to the Bloomberg ranking.
The popularity of alcoholic sparkling water beverage White Claw propelled its creator Anthony von Mandl onto the list as his net worth grew to $3.6bn. Dutch founder of fast food delivery site Takeaway.com (T5W.F) Jitse Groen grew his wealth to $1.5bn, and the popularity of soya milk gave eight members of Hong Kong’s Lo family a combined fortune of $1.5bn.
Such huge gains are sure to add fuel to the already heated debate about the widening gap between rich and poor across the globe.
Some politicians have called for a radical restructuring of the economy. Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaign included attacks on billionaires and calls to “rewrite the rules of our economy.”
“The hoarding of wealth by the few is coming at the cost of peoples’ lives,” US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on 12 December as the UK went to the polls.