Billionaires as a whole may have lost a bit of their reach and wealth in 2018, but the heavy hitters are still on top, according to Forbes Magazine, which released its 33rd annual World Billionaires List Tuesday.
The drop-off is of a piece with how the world’s richest are being viewed, Forbes Magazine Assistant Magazine Editor, Luisa Kroll, told Reuters in an interview.
“I definitely think that we are in a bad moment for the very rich. For the first time, I’ve been tracking the wealthiest for way too long and really for the first time this year we’ve seen a real animosity. There’s always been kind of a voyeuristic mentality in people joking, ‘Oh if I only had a billion, I’d be on the list.’ But you see a vehemence against these people because of the wealth inequality that we see in the world,” said Kroll.
With a net worth pegged by Forbes at $131 million, Jeff Bezos topped the list for the second year in a row. But he’s been as much in the headlines of late for his saber rattling with the National Enquirer, marital woes and Amazon’s balk in placing its HQ2 in New York as for his wealth.
“His wife MacKenzie, soon to be ex-wife, actually drove cross-country with him when he went to start the company. She was an early accountant at Amazon and given the laws in Washington state, she could end up with half of his stake in Amazon,”
The next two spots were occupied again by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Gates saw his net worth increase by $6.5 billion to reach $96.5 billion, thanks to the success of Microsoft stock. The Oracle of Omaha saw his net worth fall to $82.5 billion, down by $1.5 billion from last year.
But at this stage of their careers, neither men are known simply for their business acumen.They “are basically putting their money into potentially for-profit businesses but ones that are going to do good for the world. It’s nobel, and I think they’re all behind it. And quite frankly these people don’t really care if they make a billion dollars or a million,” Kroll said.
And reality TV star and makeup mogul Kylie Jenner is now the youngest self-made billionaire in the United States ever according to Forbes magazine.
Jenner, aged 21, launched Kylie Cosmetics’ in 2016 which the magazine said is now worth at least $900 million (USD), of which she owns all of it. Forbes estimates her wealth at $1 billion.
Her standing is shaking up the list, Kroll said.
“There’s going to be a lot of debate about what she’s self-made or was she not,” Kroll told Reuters. “She definitely was able to leverage her family’s fame and her personal fame. And she basically started making makeup and sold it through her Instagram account and through online. And sales took off.”
Also of note was the rising presence of 44 Chinese billionaires, the most of any country.
“I think the Chinese moment is a story that we’re going to be talking about for some years to come,” Kroll said.
Donald Trump has famously monitored his standing in the world’s billionaire’s club, and he stayed at the same $3.1 billion as last year.
“He kind of stayed flat but was able to increase his position,” Kroll said. “What’s interesting is that within that some assets did much better than others and some of the assets that did very well are ones that he has nothing to do with.”