It was a comeback year for the world’s wealthiest.
Once again, their fortunes were closely correlated to the performance of tech stocks, which rose to fresh records this year despite recession fears, lingering inflation, lofty interest rates and geopolitical turmoil. Tech billionaires saw their wealth grow by 48% or $658 billion, propelled by intense hype around artificial intelligence.
No one did better than Elon Musk, who recaptured the title of world’s richest person from French luxury tycoon Bernard Arnault. The Tesla Inc. CEO netted an additional $95.4 billion through Thursday’s close, bolstered by the success of Tesla and SpaceX, after losing $138 billion in 2022. His net worth is now more than $50 billion above Arnault’s after a global slowdown in demand for luxury goods dented shares of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE.
Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos added more than $70 billion to his wallet this year and is now neck-and-neck with Arnault for second place, while the fortune of Meta Platforms Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg jumped by more than $80 billion.
The rising tide left some boats behind. Indian billionaire Gautam Adani lost $21 billion on Jan. 27 alone — and $37.3 billion across the whole year — after short-seller Hindenburg Research tanked the value of the Adani Group. Nevertheless, he still possesses an 11-figure fortune.
What does the world hold in store for the wealthiest people in 2024? While it’s impossible to know for sure — few would have foreseen such a large rebound this year — here are some of the names to watch:
Adelson, 78, became the majority shareholder of casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. after the 2021 death of her husband, Sheldon. After lying low for a time, Adelson this year reached a deal to buy a $3.5 billion majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association and courted Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley. Adelson's net worth climbed to $34.3 billion.
Francoise Bettencourt Meyers
As the heir to the L’Oréal fortune, Bettencourt Meyers, 70, is the richest woman on the planet and the first to possess a 12-figure net worth. Bettencourt Meyers’ success comes as a result of France’s thriving beauty and fashion industries, which have also thrust LVMH’s Arnault, Chanel’s Wertheimer brothers and the Hermès family into the realm of the ultrawealthy. Her fortune surged 40% this year as L’Oréal’s shares climbed to a record high.
The founder of Point72 Asset Management is all in on New York dynasties — old and new. Cohen, 67, owns the New York Mets and is trying to revitalize the Major League Baseball franchise after years of lackluster performance. He’s also partnering with Hard Rock International in an attempt to secure one of the state’s limited new casino licenses, giving beleaguered Mets fans the chance to gamble their sorrows away. His wealth rose to $13.9 billion in 2023.
Cuban, 65, has a knack for getting out at the right time, selling his radio-streaming website Broadcast.com shortly before the dot-com bubble burst. He purchased the Dallas Mavericks in 2000 for $285 million, winning three division titles, two conference championships and an NBA championship before flipping them to Adelson for $3.5 billion — although he'll keep a minority stake. Whether this goes down as another well-timed Cuban sale remains to be seen. His fortune climbed to $6.8 billion this year.
It was a rough year for the activist investor after short-seller Hindenburg Research initiated a meltdown that wiped $18.1 billion from his fortune, including more than $10 billion in just one day. Still, the 87-year-old Icahn has a lot of fight left in him. He intends to launch a new proxy battle to take control of Illumina Inc.’s board, said people familiar with the matter, after the DNA-sequencing company terminated a costly acquisition that Icahn had criticized.
The 92-year-old News Corp. founder has officially retired, ceding control to his son Lachlan. It’s set to be a rocky year for the heir as candidates including Joe Biden and Donald Trump vie for the presidency again. Fox Corp. already settled with Dominion Voting Systems for $787.5 million after the company accused the network of airing false claims that it rigged the vote against Trump. Fox still faces another lawsuit by Smartmatic Corp. in a similar case. The controversy hasn’t dented Rupert Murdoch’s net worth, which rose to $8.9 billion in 2023.
The Japanese investor made a big bet on WeWork, which officially crumpled in 2023, and people are questioning his judgment after he continued to pour money into Adam Neumann’s remote-work business even after it was clearly struggling. The SoftBank Group Corp. founder, 66, is likely to struggle further as deals dry up. But he has pulled himself out of deeper holes before, climbing back after losing tens of billions of dollars in the dot-com crash. Son’s wealth fell to $11.4 billion this year.
The former president and current candidate may have lost the 2020 election, but his wallet has only gained. His wealth has grown by $500 million since 2021, giving him a total net worth of $3.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Still, 2024 will be a battle for Trump, 77, as he defends himself in lawsuits related to his defamation of author E. Jean Carroll, alleged fraud and his attempts to overturn the 2020 election — all while running for president.
Changpeng 'CZ' Zhao
In many ways, it was a rough year for the 46-year-old founder of Binance, the world’s biggest crypto exchange. In November, CZ and Binance pleaded guilty to money laundering and U.S. sanctions violations. He agreed to step down as CEO and personally pay a $50 million fine in addition to the $4.3 billion Binance will have to fork over. Still, the rebound in crypto boosted CZ’s wealth by nearly $25 billion this year, even as he may be headed to jail in 2024.