Top billionaires: who is the richest person in the world?

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It’s no wonder Elon Musk is smiling. He is top of the world’s rich list after Tesla received a whopping order of 100,000 electric vehicles from rental car company Hertz. The Tesla CEO and chairman saw his personal fortune climb by $25.6bn after shares in the electric car maker climbed 12.6% on the back of the deal.

Musk, who is also the founder and CEO of space exploration company SpaceX, is now worth $255.2bn and Forbes estimates he is likely to be the “richest person to ever walk the planet”. He’s wealthier than any billionaire Forbes has ever tracked and is worth more than Google co-founder Larry Page and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg combined.

Musk receives no salary at Tesla, Reuters reported. His pay package provides 12 option tranches that vest when Tesla’s market capitalisation and financial growth “hit a series of rising milestones”. The options let Musk buy Tesla shares at $70 each, a discount of more than 90% from their current price of $1,024.86. 

In September Musk overtook Jeff Bezos to become the richest person in the world and he “hasn’t looked back since”, said Forbes’ Eliza Haverstock. Amazon founder Bezos, a rival space billionaire, is second on the list with a personal fortune of $193.3bn.

World’s richest people

According to the Forbes Real Time Billionaires list (as of 26 October 2021)

1. Elon Musk: $255.2bn

Musk is the CEO of Tesla and the founder and CEO of SpaceX. He divides his time between SpaceX, Tesla and projects like Hyperloop, a proposed ultra-high-speed train line.

2. Jeff Bezos: $193.3bn

The former hedge fund manager started Amazon in his garage in 1994. Bezos has invested heavily in space technology too, and also owns The Washington Post newspaper. After stepping down as Amazon CEO he took on the new role of executive chair. 

3. Bernard Arnault and family: $186.5bn

Arnault is the wealthiest European on the list. The Frenchman oversees an empire of more than 70 brands including Louis Vuitton and Sephora.

4. Bill Gates: $135.2bn 

The Microsoft founder has been a permanent fixture near the top of the rich list for the past 20 years, despite selling and then giving away much of his stake in the company. He now owns just 1% and focuses predominantly on his philanthropic work.

5. Larry Ellison: $130.5bn

The American business magnate is co-founder, chairman and chief technology officer of Oracle. He owns around 35.4% of the software giant.

6. Larry Page: $118.2bn

Internet entrepreneur Page is one of the co-founders of Google. He stepped down as CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. in December 2019 but remains a board member.

7. Mark Zuckerberg: $117.6bn

Zuckerberg made his fortune after launching Facebook in 2004 at the age of 19, while studying psychology and computer science at Harvard University.

8. Sergey Brin: $113.9bn

Along with Larry Page, Brin was a co-founder of Google. Until December 2019, he was president of Alphabet Inc.

9. Warren Buffett: $105.2

Now in his ninth decade, the Berkshire Hathaway chief executive, known as the “Oracle of Omagh”, is one of the most successful investors of all time. Like Gates, he has pledged to give away more than 99% of his fortune to charity.

10. Mukesh Ambani: $100.9bn

Indian billionaire businessman Ambani is the founder and chairman of Reliance Industries. The company has interests in petrochemicals, oil and gas, telecom and retail.

Who is the richest person of all time?

With a fortune of around $400bn, Mansa Musa I of Mali, the first king of Timbuktu, may not be a household name, but was by most estimates one of the richest people in history. Deriving his wealth from his country’s vast salt and gold deposits, which at one time accounted for half the world’s supply, Musa ruled West Africa’s Malian Empire in the early 14th century, constructing hundreds of mosques across the continent, many of which survive to this day.

With a fortune estimated at between $300-$400bn in today’s money, Tsar Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov (Nicolas II) of Russia was deposed and subsequently executed by the Bolsheviks in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution.

The Independent notes that, following his canonisation by the Russian Orthodox Church, he is also the richest saint in history.

Excluding kings, princes and those who inherited their wealth, the list of the world’s richest-ever men – and they are always men – is dominated by the so-called robber barons of 19th and early 20th century America.

Often cited as the richest person who ever lived, oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller was the first person to have a net worth of over $1bn in the money of the time.

At the time of this death his estate was worth an estimated $340bn in today’s money, almost 2% of total US economic output.

With an estimated fortune of $310bn in today’s money, steel magnate and Rockefeller contemporary Andrew Carnegie sold his Carnegie Steel Company to JP Morgan for $480m in 1901, and later made his name with his philanthropic donations.

Automobile pioneer Henry Ford, who perfected the production line and has become a by-word for American entrepreneurship, had a fortune of around $199bn at the time of his death in 1947.

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