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Bloomberg: How World’s Wealthiest Billionaires Lost $1.9trn in 2022

Elon Musk emerges first person in history to lose $200bn.

At least $1.9 trillion was wiped off the fortunes of the world’s richest 500 billionaires in 2022 alone, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index (BBI).


The report stressed that plenty of the pain was self-inflicted, especially with the alleged fraud by one-time crypto wunderkind, Sam Bankman-Fried; the devastating war waged by Russia on Ukraine that spurred crippling sanctions on its business titans; and the antics of new Twitter owner, Elon Musk, who is worth $138 billion less than he was on January 1, 2022.


Combined with a backdrop of widespread inflation and aggressive interest rate hikes, the BBI said the year was a dramatic comedown for a group of billionaires whose fortunes swelled to unfathomable heights in the Covid-19 era of easy money.


In a separate report, Bloomberg has indicated that Twitter Chief Executive Officer, Elon Musk, has become the first human being in history to lose a mammoth $200 billion in net worth.


It wasn’t too long ago that Musk became the second individual ever to amass a personal fortune of more than $200 billion. That happened in January 2021, just months after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accomplished the same feat, the report said.
Much of Musk’s lost billions have been swallowed up by the plummeting value of his shares in Tesla, the electric vehicle company of which he is CEO. The value has dropped 65 per cent this year, and slumped 11 per cent last Tuesday alone.


Musk’s fortune to date peaked in November 2021 at $340 billion, according to the Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. He’s now worth a not-too-shabby $137 billion, but that’s still a steep dive from 2021.
Musk was the world’s richest person until earlier last month, when he was surpassed by European fashion magnate Bernard Arnault, the powerhouse behind LVMH.


In most cases, the bigger the rise, the more dramatic the fall, the report said, noting that Musk, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Binance founder Zhao Changpeng and Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg alone saw some $392 billion erased from their cumulative net worth.
A month-by-month review of the data and stories that defined a tumultuous year for billionaires, showed Musk, the world’s richest person at the time, losing $34.6 billion on January 27 after electric carmaker Tesla warned of supply challenges.
It was the fourth-steepest one-day fall in the history of the Bloomberg wealth index and foreshadowed a rocky year ahead for Musk, both personally and financially.


In February, Russia’s richest people collectively lost $62.5 billion on the day President Vladimir Putin ordered his army to invade Ukraine while in March, China’s fortunes were crushed when its markets went from bad to worse, erasing $86.6 billion from the fortunes of the country’s wealthiest people.


“They lose (lost) another $164 billion in 2022 as strenuous Covid-19-containment efforts, a buckling property market, heightened scrutiny of the tech industry and trade tensions with the United States drag on the world’s second-largest economy,” the report added.
It was the turn of Musk again in April, who soon after revealing a 9.1 per cent stake in Twitter, offered to buy the company at a $44 billion valuation.


“Markets deteriorate in the coming months and Musk tries to devise an escape route, kicking off a months-long legal wrangle with Twitter. By the time the deal is completed in October, his net worth is $39 billion lower than when he made his initial offer,” the report said.
In May, the Bloomberg index reported that a group helmed by finance billionaire Todd Boehly clinched the £4.25 billion (S$6.9 billion) winning bid for Chelsea Football Club.
It was the highest price paid for a sports team, and capped a frenzied two-month process that attracted more than 100 bidders from all over the world.


The net proceeds from the sale, including £1.6 billion in waived debt owed to previous owner Roman Abramovich by the team, it added were earmarked for charity benefiting Ukraine.


Mr Rob Walton, heir to the Walmart fortune, in June agreed to buy American football team Denver Broncos for $4.65 billion, setting a record for a US sports team, while in July, Ms Yang Huiyan lost the title of Asia’s wealthiest woman after her fortune more than halved over seven months amid China’s unfolding property crisis, the report said.


In a rough year for US tech titans, Mr Mark Zuckerberg’s losses stood out, Bloomberg said. By mid-September, his net worth plunged by $71 billion from January 1 – a 57 per cent loss – on account of a costly pivot to the metaverse and an industrywide downturn that dragged down the stock price of Facebook parent Meta Platforms.


Over the course of the year, he fell 19 ranks on the Bloomberg wealth index, finishing 2022 at 25th, his lowest position since 2014.
The bubble of the Covid-19 economy has been deflating fast, and with it, the fortunes of the so-called Covid-19 billionaires – moguls who minted enormous cash from vaccines (Moderna’s Mr Stephane Bancel), online shopping (Coupang’s Mr Bom Kim) and, of course, videoconferencing (Zoom’s Mr Eric Yuan), began to fall.


The 58 billionaires whose fortunes multiplied at a blistering pace from such pandemic industries saw an average decline in the value of their assets of 58 per cent from their peak, a far sharper fall than the other constituents of the Bloomberg wealth index.


In November, Sam Bankman-Fried crumbled from $21 billion to zero as his crypto exchange FTX collapsed after a liquidity crunch revealed gaping holes in his empire’s balance sheet and an absence of risk controls.


The 30-year-old’s $16 billion fortune was erased in less than a week. At its peak, his net worth was valued at US$26 billion. The debacle left one million clients wondering if they will get their money back.

So also was Binance’s Mr Zhao Changpeng, who saw his net worth tumble by $84 billion in 2022, the report added.

Emmanuel Addeh

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