Billionaire Membership Rolls Shrink, But Their Ranks are More Interesting Than Ever

Tuesday marked the financial world’s equivalent of a high school posting the latest semester’s honor roll.

Forbes published its annual tally of the world’s billionaires, the most successful people in business. Reflecting the economic turbulence of recent months, this year’s honor roll has 87 fewer members than in 2021. The 2,668 billionaires listed, worth $12.7 trillion combined, have $400 billion less than they did last year. Beyond that are some interesting twists and turns.

Oligarchnemesis

There are two big macro takeaways from this year’s list: Sanctions work and crackdowns hurt. Russia, the subject of historic international sanctions in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, has 83 billionaires on this year’s list, down from 117 a year ago. The remaining Russians lost an average of 27% of their wealth and are worth $320 billion combined, an astonishing $263 billion drop from 2021.

In China, where a government-led crackdown on tech companies has knocked $1.5 trillion off markets, there are now 607 billionaires, 87 fewer than last year. You really can’t launch a regulatory crackdown without breaking some Fabergé eggs. Then there are the little details:

  • The $65 billion fortune of Changpeng Zhao, the Chinese-Canadian CEO of Binance, makes him the richest person in the world of digital currencies, and, at 19th, the first crypto billionaire to enter the top 20. “I only count what’s in my wallet, which is not much at all,” he tweeted.
  • There are 236 new billionaires since last year. Bulgaria, Estonia, and Uruguay earned their first billionaire, as did Barbados, where pop star Rihanna is living up to her song, “Better Have My Money.”

Great Scott: Changing the notion of wealth is MacKenzie Scott, whose $43.6 billion fortune is down 18% from a year ago but not because of bad business decisions. Scott has given away $12.5 billion in less than two years, bringing her all the way up to fifth on the list of the world’s most generous lifetime philanthropists. She only trails Bill Gates and George Soros, who have been giving away money for decades.

There’s Still Time: Less than 0.5% of billionaires — 12 of them to be precise — are under the age of 30, so don’t give up on having a 10-figure bank account just yet.



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