World's Billionaires 2020: Total Wealth Falls $700 Billion Amid Pandemic

For the third time in a decade, the number of billionaires dropped as global equity markets imploded. Of those who remain, 51% are poorer than they were last year

Photo: Depositphotos.com/dennizn

The richest people on Earth are not immune to the coronavirus. As the pandemic tightened its grip on Europe and America, global equity markets imploded, tanking many fortunes. As of March 18, when we finalized this list, Forbes counted 2,095 billionaires, 58 fewer than a year ago and 226 fewer than just 12 days earlier, when we initially calculated these net worths. Of the billionaires who remain, 51% are poorer than they were last year. In raw terms, the world’s billionaires are worth $8 trillion, down $700 billion from 2019.

Jeff Bezos is the world’s wealthiest person for the third year in a row, despite giving $36 billion worth of his Amazon stock to his ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos as part of their divorce settlement last summer. He’s worth $113 billion, buoyed by a 15% rise in Amazon’s shares since our 2019 list. The e-commerce giant he runs has been in the spotlight amid the pandemic; it’s hiring 100,000 full- and part-time workers to help meet increased demand from consumers staying home and shopping online.

Bill Gates keeps his spot as number two richest, followed by luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault, who nudged out Warren Buffett to move into the number three spot for the first time. Alice Walton, an heir to the Walmart fortune, is the richest woman, ranked No.9 at $54.4 billion. Altogether 241 women made the list, including 7 who share a fortune with a spouse, sibling or child.

The biggest gainer in dollar terms is Qin Yinglin, the world’s richest pig breeder. He’s ranked No. 43 and is worth $18.5 billion--a $14.2 billion jump since the 2019 list, after shares of his Shenzhen-listed Muyuan Foods nearly tripled as the African swine flu reduced the supply of pigs and drove up prices.

Altogether, 267 people who made last year’s list have dropped off as businesses faltered; among the most notable drop-offs is Adam Neumann of WeWork. Another 21 people died. Still, Forbes found 178 newcomers hailing from 20 countries, including some, like Zoom Video Communications’ founder and CEO Eric Yuan, whose service is booming amid our current shelter-in-place reality. The U.S. remains the country with the most billionaires, with 614, followed by greater China (including Hong Kong and Macao), with 456.

The Forbes World’s Billionaires list is a snapshot of wealth using stock prices and exchange rates from March 18, 2020. Some people become richer or poorer within days of publication. We list individuals rather than multigenerational families who share fortunes, though we include wealth belonging to a billionaire’s spouse and children if that person is the founder of the fortune. In some cases we list siblings or couples together if the ownership breakdown among them isn’t clear, but here an estimated net worth of $1 billion per person is needed to make the cut. We value a variety of assets, including private companies, real estate, art and more. We don’t pretend to know each billionaire’s private balance sheet (though some provide it). When documentation isn’t supplied or available, we discount fortunes.

For daily updated net worths of all 2,095 billionaires, go to forbes.com/real-time-billionaires

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