New York, Princeton
The richest people on earth became $1 trillion richer in 2017, more than four times last year’s gain, as stock markets shrugged off economic, social and political divisions to reach record highs.
The 23 per cent increase on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world’s 500 richest people, compares with an almost 20 per cent increase for both the MSCI World Index and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
Amazon Inc founder Jeff Bezos added the most in 2017, a $34.2 billion gain that knocked Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates out of his spot as the world’s richest person in October. Gates, 62, had held the spot since May 2013, and has been donating much of his fortune to charity, including a $4.6 billion pledge he made to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in August. Bezos, whose net worth topped $100 billion at the end of November, currently has a net worth of $99.6 billion compared with $91.3 billion for Gates.
George Soros also gave away a substantial part of his fortune, revealing in October that his family office had given $18 billion to his Open Society Foundations over the past several years, dropping the billionaire investor to No. 195 on the Bloomberg ranking, with a net worth of $8 billion.
By the end of trading on Tuesday the 500 billionaires controlled $5.3 trillion, up from $4.4 trillion on December 27, 2016.
“It’s part of the second-most robust and second-longest bull market in history,” said Mike Ryan, chief investment officer for the Americas at UBS Wealth Management, on December 18. “Of all the guidance we gave people over the course of this year, the most important advice was staying invested.”
With wealth surging to new highs, billionaires may quickly learn that a billion dollars doesn’t buy what it used to. The price of housing has topped $300 million, the cost of divorce has hit $1 billion and a rediscovered painting by Leonardo da Vinci sold for $450.3 million at a Christie’s auction in November, the most expensive work ever sold.
“Would you believe it?” Eli Broad, who has a $7.4 billion fortune and his own museum in Los Angeles, said after the sale. “It’s wild.”