Why sky-high tech valuations pose a new risk to billionaires' wealth

Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth plummeted $31bn in the third biggest fall in a single day

Mark Zuckerberg’s loss of wealth is especially striking because he’s been a mainstay among the world’s 10 richest people since mid-2015. AFP
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For the world’s richest people, there used to be three ways to quickly see a fortune disappear: death, default or divorce.

The past few months have added another risk: sky-high valuations of giant technology companies falling from the stratosphere.

Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth plummeted as much as $31 billion on Thursday, the third-biggest one-day drop in wealth since the Bloomberg Billionaires Index began compiling data in 2012.

Two of his Facebook co-founders, Eduardo Saverin and Dustin Moskovitz, saw their fortunes tumble $4.6bn and $3.1bn, respectively, as Meta Platforms shares plunged 26 per cent.

Over at Spotify, chief executive Daniel Ek’s net worth has fallen by $1.1bn so far in 2022, to $2.7bn.

An 11-digit move in wealth had previously been reserved for monumental events in the lives of billionaires.

Some recent high-profile examples include Jeff Bezos’s divorce in 2019 and Bill Hwang losing in a matter of days when his Archegos Capital Management imploded last year under the weight of margin calls.

Now it’s becoming almost routine — especially with the volatile swings in Elon Musk’s fortune. The world’s richest person lost $35bn in a day in November as Tesla shares fell following a Twitter poll in which Mr Musk asked voters if he should sell 10 per cent of his stake in the company.

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This kind of volatility is to be expected when you’re at these valuations
Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani, head of Goldman Sachs Group’s investment strategy group

His net worth also plunged $25.8bn last week, adding to a long list of daily declines that dominate the list of the top 10 biggest drops ever recorded by Bloomberg’s index.

Of course, Mr Musk and other tech titans can add to their fortunes in a blink of an eye, too.

Shares of Amazon surged about 18 per cent in extended trading on Thursday, after profit beat estimates and it raised the price of its Prime subscription service.

That’s a boon for Mr Bezos, who slipped one spot to the world’s third-richest person on Thursday, the first time he’s fallen out of the top 2 since September 2017.

An 18 per cent increase would boost his net worth by $25bn, which would be the sixth-biggest gain on record in a decade of Bloomberg data.

“This kind of volatility is to be expected when you’re at these valuations,” Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani, head of Goldman Sachs Group’s investment strategy group, said last week.

Even if broader declines in tech shares are contained, Mr Zuckerberg’s losses are especially striking because he’s been a mainstay among the world’s 10 richest people since mid-2015. He nearly fell out of the top 10 after Thursday’s rout, ranking just ahead of Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man, in the Bloomberg wealth index.

It’s another indication of the unpredictable ways in which the US rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic will ripple across markets, companies and the economy.

Updated: February 07, 2022, 12:11 AM
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