Elon Musk, the tech visionary and entrepreneur, has lost his coveted position atop Forbes’ annual billionaires’ list. Musk, who heads electric vehicle maker Tesla and social media platform Twitter, is now the second-richest billionaire in the world, worth an estimated $180 billion. This represents a drop of $39 billion from the previous year. The top spot has been claimed by Bernard Arnault, the chairman of French luxury goods giant LVMH, whose net worth has increased by over $50 billion to $211 billion.
The shifting of fortunes comes as no surprise to Musk, whose position on Forbes’ “Real Time Billionaires” list has been fluctuating with Arnault for the past few months. However, the annual Forbes list tracks wealth on a yearly basis and shows Musk’s wealth has decreased due to his $44 billion Twitter purchase, funded by Tesla shares, which caused investor jitters and sent Tesla stock plummeting last year. Although Tesla has regained some of these losses this year, its valuation is still significantly lower than before Musk’s Twitter purchase. Forbes noted that “Musk has mostly tweeted himself out of the top spot on the ranks” as Tesla shares are down 50% since his Twitter takeover.
While Amazon founder Jeff Bezos lost $57 billion, the most of any billionaire on the list, and slipped from second to third position, Arnault has had a “banner year” with record-high profits at the luxury conglomerate, which includes Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, and Tiffany & Co. LVMH shares have climbed 25% over the past year, and Arnault has recently unveiled succession plans for his children.
Forbes also reported a decline in the total number of billionaires on this year’s list, which fell to 2,640, down from 2,668 the previous year, marking the second straight year of decline. “It’s been another rare down year for the planet’s richest people,” said Chase Peterson-Withorn, Forbes senior editor of wealth. “Nearly half the list is poorer than they were 12 months ago, but a lucky few are billions – or even tens of billions – of dollars richer.”
Among the notable absentees from this year’s list is musician Kanye West, who lost his Adidas deal. With the pandemic continuing to wreak havoc on global economies, it remains to be seen how the wealth of the world’s billionaires will fare in the coming years. Nonetheless, the shifting fortunes of the world’s wealthiest individuals continue to make for intriguing reading.