The Earth’s billionaires lost $511 billion this year after record first-half gains were obliterated by a succession of bruising market selloffs, according to Bloomberg.
Global trade tensions and worries about a U.S. recession dragged markets lower at year-end, leaving the 500 people on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a combined net worth of $4.7 trillion as of Friday’s close. It’s only the second annual decline for the daily wealth index since its 2012 debut, and represents a sharp about-turn from the start of the year, when bullish investors helped propel the fortunes of the richest to a record $5.6 trillion.
“As of late, investor anxiety has run high,” said Katie Nixon, chief investment officer at Northern Trust Wealth Management. “We do not expect a recession, but we are mindful of the downside risks to global growth.”
Even Jeff Bezos, who recorded the biggest gain for 2018, wasn’t spared the volatility. His fortune peaked at $168 billion in September, a $69 billion gain. It later tumbled $53 billion — more than the market value of Delta Air Lines Inc. or Ford Motor Co. — to leave him with $115 billion at year-end.
The Amazon.com Inc. founder had a better year than Mark Zuckerberg, who recorded the biggest loss since January, dropping $23 billion as Facebook Inc. careened from crisis to crisis. Overall, the 173 U.S. billionaires on the list — the largest cohort — lost 5.9 percent from their fortunes to leave them with $1.9 trillion.
From Zara founder Amancio Ortega to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, most of Europe’s billionaires saw their fortunes fall. Germany’s Schaeffler family, the majority shareholders of car-parts maker Continental AG, lost the most as extra costs and tough business conditions in Europe and Asia hampered the company’s performance.
Georg Schaeffler and his mother Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler-Thumann are $17 billion worse off than at the start of the year. That sum alone would place them among the world’s 100 richest people.
Mexico’s Carlos Slim, the majority shareholder of Latin America’s largest mobile-phone operator, also suffered big losses. Once the world’s richest person, Slim now ranks sixth with a $54 billion pile. 3G Capital co-founder Jorge Paulo Lemann saw his fortune drop the most among Latin American billionaires, losing $9.8 billion. But even with that fall, he remains Brazil’s richest person.