The wealth of Europe’s billionaires has risen to hit $3 trillion, Forbes found, as the world’s richest remained largely shielded from the financial harm caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Forbes just released its 2021 list of the World’s Billionaires, which contains 628 European billionaires, up from 511 the previous year. As a group, they are $1 trillion richer than a year ago, suggesting that for the hyperwealthy, the pandemic year has been lucrative.
French luxury goods magnate Bernard Arnault keeps his spot as the No. 3 richest in the world, though his $150 billion fortune is nearly double the $76 billion it was a year ago, as a result of a run-up in the value of LVMH shares. Spanish fast-fashion tycoon Amancio Ortega is Europe’s second richest, worth $77 billion. While that is $20 billion more than a year ago, he dropped in rank to No. 11 richest in the world this year, down from No. 6 last year, as others—mostly U.S. billionaires—outpaced his gains.
Joining the ranks this year are 80 new European billionaires, including Axel Springer CEO Mathias Doepfner (after receiving a gift of nearly $1.2 billion worth of the media giant’s stock from billionaire owner Friede Springer) and Checkout.com founder Guillaume Pousaz of Switzerland, whose stake in the privately held e-commerce payment company is worth an estimated $9 billion. Others who had previously dropped off returned to the list, including easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou of Greece and the three German brothers who founded tech startup incubator Rocket Internet—Oliver, Marc and Alexander Samwer.
Since publication of the 2020 list, seven European billionaires have died. including Olivier Dassault of France, Heinz Hermann Thiele of Germany, Benjamin de Rothschild of Switzerland, Manuel Jove of Spain, Dmitry Bosov of Russia, David Barclay of the U.K. and Arne Wilhelmsen of Norway. Petr Kellner, the richest Czech billionaire, died in a helicopter crash on March 27—after Forbes had printed the list, so his $17.5 billion fortune is included in these numbers. It’s likely that his wife and children will inherit his fortune.
It’s not just the new billionaires that added to the surge in fortunes. Excluding newcomers and the billionaires who’d dropped off and make a return to the list this year, European billionaires are collectively $797 billion richer than last year. Of note: For the 2020 list, Forbes measured net worth using stock prices and currency exchange rates on March 18, 2020—which turned out to be a relatively low point for many of the globe’s stock indexes and for the value of the euro vs. the dollar. To calculate this year’s list, Forbes used stock prices and exchange rates from March 5, 2021.
Germany is still the European country with the most billionaires, at 136—worth a combined $625 billion, with 26 new billionaires and 9 returning to the list who had dropped off in the past. Unlike France, in Germany it’s not luxury goods but low-cost retail that’s been a driver for increased wealth. Aldi heirs Beate Heister and Karl Albrecht Jr. are Germany’s richest, with a net worth of $39.2 billion as the low-cost supermarket continues to win customers in new territories like the U.K. Dieter Schwarz, owner of discount supermarkets Kaufland and Lidl, is the biggest gainer in dollar terms in Germany. His fortune has risen $17.1 billion since last year to $36.9 billion as values of supermarkets rose amid the pandemic.
France is a billionaire hot spot, thanks largely to the strength of its luxury and fashion sectors. The country has 42 billionaires worth a combined $512.2 billion. LVMH’s Bernard Arnault had the biggest dollar gain in the country. Over at Chanel, brothers Alain Wertheimer and Gerard Wertheimer, the grandsons of founder Pierre Wertheimer, have also seen their wealth double from $17 billion to $35 billion each over the year alongside rising values in Europe’s biggest luxury brands.
Europe’s top ten richest billionaires are worth a collective $552 billion and added $216 billion to their total estimated net worths between 2020 and 2021.
Europe’s Top Ten Richest People 2021
1. Bernard Arnault. France. $150 billion
2. Amancio Ortega Spain. $77 billion
3. Francoise Bettencourt Meyers France. $73.6 billion
4. François Pinault France. $42.3 billion
5. Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr. Germany. $39.2 billion
6. Dieter Schwarz Germany. $36.9 billion
7. Giovanni Ferrero Italy. $35.1 billion
8. Alain Wertheimer France. $34.5 billion
9. Gerard Wertheimer France. $34.5 billion
10. Alexey Mordashov & family Russia. $29.1 billion
Country By Country
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 12 vs. 9 in 2020
TOTAL NET WORTH: $62.7 billion vs $42.1 billion in 2020
Red Bull cofounder Dietrich Mateschitz remains the country’s richest, having seen his net worth rise by over $10 billion since last year. Ulrich Mommert was Austria’s sole new billionaire and two former billionaires, Reinold Geiger and Stefan Pierer, return to the list in 2021.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 9* vs 8 in 2020
TOTAL NET WORTH: $41.4 billion vs $32.3 billion in 2020
One new Czech billionaire joined the ranks: Eduard Kucera, cofounder of London-listed computer security firm Avast.
*Until his death in a helicopter crash on March 27, Petr Kellner, founder of the PPF Group, was Czechia’s richest person. His fortune will likely be passed to his immediate family. Because he died after Forbes had finalized the 2021 list, his fortune is included in the European total.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 10 vs 8 in 2020
TOTAL NET WORTH: $61.3 billion, vs. $42.4 billion in 2020
Fashion and retail mogul Anders Holch Povlsen remains Denmark’s richest man with an estimated net worth of $13.2 billion, a $5.2 billion year-on-year rise. The Lego dynasty also enjoyed a good year with all four members of the Kristiansen clan—Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, Sofie Kirk Kristiansen and Agnete Kirk Thinggaard—up $2.6 billion each to $8.7 billion each. Two former billionaires returned: André Kasprzak and Anna Kasprzak of Ecco shoe fame.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 42 vs. 39 in 2020
TOTAL NET WORTH: $512.2 billion vs. $304.3 billion in 2020
The aforementioned Bernard Arnault sailed past the $100 billion mark in November, and his net worth kept rising as he and his family’s 47% stake in LVMH–the company behind the brands Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Christian Dior et al–continued to grow. Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the granddaughter of L'Oréal’s founder, has seen her wealth rise by $24.7 billion to $73.6 billion, while François Pinault at Kering–owner of luxury brands Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and Gucci–has seen his wealth rise $15.3 billion to $42.3 billion. Just two new French billionaires arrived in 2020, Stéphane Bancel of biotech firm Moderna, known for its Covid-19 vaccine; and Olivier Pomel, founder of Datadog, while two former billionaires have returned to the list. Olivier Dassault, an heir to the Dassault aerospace and aviation fortune, died in a helicopter crash in March at age 69.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 136 vs 107 in 2020
TOTAL NET WORTH: $625 billion vs. $447 billion in 2020
While the low-cost-supermarket dynasties of Aldi and Lidl top the net worth pile in Germany, the country also gained 26 new billionaires, the most high-profile of who include: Erich Wesjohann of agri-giant EW Group; Mathias Doepfner, the CEO of media firm Axel Springer, and the Birkenstock brothers Alex and Christian.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 9 vs. 9 in 2020
TOTAL WEALTH: $42.9 billion vs. $35.8 billion in 2020 in 2020
Construction tycoon Pallonji Mistry remains the country’s richest, with an estimated net worth of $14.6 billion, up $3.5 billion on the year. Just after Forbes finalized the list, payments firm Stripe raised new funding from private investors valuing the company at $95 billion, boosting the fortunes of sibling founders John and Patrick Collison from the $3.2 billion that appears on this list (based on March 5 values) to $9.5 billion each.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 51 vs. 36 in 2020
TOTAL NET WORTH: $204.5 billion vs. $125.6 billion in 2020
In Italy, 11 new billionaires were minted, while 4 returned to the list.
Italy’s richest person, Giovanni Ferrero of Nutella, Tic Tac and Kinder Egg fame, saw a $10.6 billion uptick of his net worth, to $35.1 billion. Joining the list are 11 new billionaires, including Marina and Giuliana Caprotti, who took control of the Esselunga supermarket chain, and Sergio Stevanato of medical packaging firm Stevanato Group.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 12 vs. 11 in 2020
TOTAL NET WORTH: $43.8 billion vs. $28.7 billion in 2020
Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken remains Holland’s richest person, at $16.7 billion, after adding $3.9 billion to her brewery fortune over the last 12 months. All of the Netherlands’ 12 billionaires saw their net worth rise in 2021.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 12 vs. 12 in 2020
TOTAL NET WORTH: $38.3 billion vs $26.2 billion in 2020
Andreas Halvorsen, of the aptly named Viking Global Investors, is Norway’s richest person, with an estimated net worth of $6.3 billion, up $1.5 billion on the year. Arne Wilhelmsen, a cofounder of Royal Caribbean Cruises, died at age 90 in April 2020.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 117 vs. 99 in 2020
TOTAL NET WORTH: $583.9 billion vs. $385.1 billion in 2020
Russia’s richest person, steel magnate Alexey Mordashov, is worth $29.1 billion, up by $12.3 billion from a year ago. Other big gainers: Telegram founder and majority owner Pavel Durov (up $13.8 billion) and e-commerce retailer Tatyana Bakalchuk (up $12 billion). There are 13 new Russian billionaires this year.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 30 vs. 24 in 2020
TOTAL NET WORTH: $137 billion vs. $97.1 billion in 2020
Spain’s richest person, Amancio Ortega, of Inditex fame, got $21.9 billion richer over the last year, putting his estimated net worth at $77 billion. José Elías, one of three newcomers in 2021, built a fortune in renewable energy; he is chairman and significant shareholder of Audax Renovables, which manages wind farms and is developing solar projects.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 41 vs. 31 in 2020
TOTAL NET WORTH: $182 billion vs. $106.6 billion in 2020
Sweden’s richest person, Stefan Persson, of H&M fame, grew $7.8 billion wealthier over the course of the year, putting his 2021 figure at $21.3 billion. The Tetra Laval heirs—members of the Rausing family—are big winners over the last 12 months, with Finn, Jorn and Kirsten Rausing collectively $13.2 billion richer. Sweden has eight new billionaires, including Sebastian Siemiatkowski and Victor Jacobsson, cofounders of fintech firm Klarna.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 40 vs. 35
TOTAL NET WORTH: $145.5 billion vs. $96.4 billion in 2020
Shipping tycoons Gianluigi and Rafaela Aponte are the richest in Switzerland, with a net worth of $10.7 billion, having added $4.2 billion over the year. One newcomer to Switzerland (via London and Dubai): Checkout.com founder Guillaume Pousaz, with an estimated net worth of $9 billion after the latest round of investment valued the payments startup at $15 billion in January.
NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES: 56 vs. 45
TOTAL NET WORTH: $213.9 billion vs $152.9 billion in 2020
James Ratcliffe replaces the Hinduja brothers as the U.K.’s richest, with a $17 billion fortune, up $6 billion on the back of a rebound for the chemicals sector into which his Ineos empire falls. There are three new billionaires, including Matt Moulding of e-commerce firm Hut Group and electric vehicle startup Fisker Inc.’s cofounder and chief financial officer, Geeta Gupta-Fisker. Nine former U.K. billionaires who had dropped off—among them, former press baron Richard Desmond and David McMurtry of engineering mainstay Renishaw–are back on the list.