Billionaires: Elon Musk ends 2023 as world’s richest person

Mark Zuckerberg returns to the top 10 rich list and L'Oreal's Francois Bettencourt Meyers becomes the first woman to amass a $100 billion fortune

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Elon Musk might be a cash-poor centibillionaire, but that hasn’t stopped him from ending 2023 as the world’s richest person – at least on paper – with a net worth of $229 billion.

The chief executive of electric vehicle maker Tesla and owner of X has added $92 billion, or 67.2 per cent, to his personal fortune over the past year despite the continuing controversies related to his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter in 2022, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Bloomberg lists Mr Musk’s cash holding as $0. His private assets include SpaceX, valued at $53.2 billion, The Boring Company ($3.3 billion) and X Corp ($9.32 billion). The value of X has dropped 55 per cent to $19 billion, according to a report by technology news website The Verge.

His one publicly listed asset is Tesla, valued at $102 billion at the close of trade on Friday, while he has $7.44 billion in miscellaneous liabilities, according to Bloomberg.

However, Mr Musk’s lack of cash doesn’t appear to concern him. In a post on social media platform X in October, he responded to a report by US internet news website Daily Dot that claimed he earned an average of about $142,690 a minute, saying it was a “silly metric”.

“Such a silly metric. It’s not a giant pile of cash. I really just own stock in the companies that I was instrumental in creating,” Mr Musk, 52, said in the X post.

“Technically, I ‘lose’ way more than that every time Tesla stock randomly drops.”

Tesla is part of the “Magnificent Seven”, a group of mega-cap US technology companies that includes Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Nvidia and Meta Platforms, which has driven stock markets higher and accounted for the majority of the S&P 500’s returns this year.

Most of Mr Musk’s fortune is tied to Tesla's stock, which has surged 129.8 per cent this year to end 2023’s final day of trading on Friday at $248.48.

Still, Tesla’s stock price is a long way off its November 2021 peak of $407.36 – a time when Mr Musk’s net worth also hit its highest value of $338 billion, making him the world’s first member of the $300 billion club, albeit briefly.

Meanwhile, Bernard Arnault, chairman of French luxury group LVMH, lost his world's richest ranking to end 2023 as the second-wealthiest person with a net worth of $179 billion.

His personal fortune rose a modest 10.5 per cent, or $17 billion, in 2023 as demand for luxury goods was dampened by fears of a softening US economy. Those fears have since retreated and LVMH shares have risen 5.69 per cent so far this year to end 2023 at €733.60 ($809.86).

Mr Arnault’s fortune was just enough to push Amazon founder Jeff Bezos into third place on the rich list with a net worth of $177 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates retained his spot as the world’s fourth-richest person with a personal fortune of $141 billion, up $31.5 billion on the year, or 28.8 per cent.

Mr Gates, the world’s richest person from 1995 to 2017, has pledged to give away the majority of his fortune to The Gates Foundation, which he set up with his former wife, Melinda, in 2000.

In 2010, Mr Gates and renowned centibillionaire investor Warren Buffett also teamed up to establish The Giving Pledge, which encourages the super-rich to donate the majority of their fortunes to philanthropic causes.

“Although I don’t care where I rank on the list of the world’s richest people, I do know that as I succeed in giving, I will drop down and eventually off the list altogether,” Mr Gates said in his blog in December last year.

This year, Mr Gates, who retired from Microsoft in 2008 to run The Gates Foundation, said he is inspired by his friend, the late Chuck Feeney, a former billionaire who secretly gave away his $8 billion fortune.

“I have been thinking a lot lately about my friend Chuck Feeney, who passed away in October,” Mr Gates wrote in his end-of-year blog last month.

“He was a huge proponent of what he called ‘Giving While Living’. As another year comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on what it means to truly embody that idea,” he added.

“For me, it means constantly asking myself a question: How can I use my wealth to do the most good for the most people, now and in the future?”

Rounding out the top five wealthiest people in the world in 2023 is Steve Ballmer, former chief executive of Microsoft and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, who returned to the $100 billion club this year with a net worth of $131 billion.

Perhaps one of the biggest movers of 2023 is Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Meta Platforms, formerly known as Facebook and the world’s biggest social media company.

Just a year ago, Mr Zuckerberg was languishing in 25th place on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a net worth of $44 billion after Meta’s stock plunged in 2022, dragged down by disappointing quarterly results and concerns that he was spending too much time – and money – on the metaverse.

The majority of Mr Zuckerberg's wealth is derived from his 12.8 per cent stake in Meta.

Thanks to its “Magnificent Seven” membership, Meta recovered its losses in 2023 and boosted Mr Zuckerberg’s wealth by an impressive 180.8 per cent, or $82.5 billion.

He now has a net worth of $128 billion and is the world’s sixth-richest person.

Coming in at number seven is Google co-founder Larry Page with a net worth of $126 billion, followed by Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison with $123 billion.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Berkshire Hathaway chairman Mr Buffett round out the top 10 wealthiest people in the world, each with a net worth of $120 billion.

Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, who controls one third of L’Oreal, the world’s largest cosmetics company, ended the year as the world’s 12th-richest person – and richest woman – after her net worth surged 39.4 per cent to $99.7 billion.

For a brief period on Friday, Ms Bettencourt Meyers, the granddaughter of French pharmacist and L’Oreal founder Eugene Schueller, became the first woman to amass a $100 billion fortune, placing her in the rarefied, male-dominated centibillionaire club, according to Bloomberg.

However, L'Oreal shares dipped 0.14 per cent on Friday to close out the trading year at €450.65, dragging down her net worth by $401 million along the way.

Watch: Meet Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the world's wealthiest woman

Meet Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the world's wealthiest woman

Meet Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the world's wealthiest woman

Meanwhile, Indian business tycoon Gautam Adani, chairman of the Adani Group, shed 30.1 per cent of his net worth to end 2023 as the world’s 15th-richest person with a fortune of $84.3 billion.

Mr Adani’s net worth plummeted to $39.9 billion last February after a scathing report by US short-seller Hindenburg Research accused companies owned by the billionaire of “brazen” market manipulation and accounting fraud.

The former centibillionaire's current net worth is a sharp drop from the peak of his wealth of nearly $150 billion in September 2022, when he briefly overtook Mr Bezos as the world's second-richest person.

Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, remains Asia’s richest person – and the 13th wealthiest in the world – with a net worth of $96.3 billion.

Top 10 richest people in the world in 2023

  1. Elon Musk – $229 billion
  2. Bernard Arnault – $179 billion
  3. Jeff Bezos – $177 billion
  4. Bill Gates – $141 billion
  5. Steve Ballmer – $131 billion
  6. Mark Zuckerberg – $128 billion
  7. Larry Page – $126 billion
  8. Larry Ellison – $123 billion
  9. Sergey Brin – $120 billion
  10. Warren Buffett – $120 billion
Updated: January 01, 2024, 5:00 AM