Elon Musk ousts Jeff Bezos on top of Forbes billionaires list for first time with net worth of $273.6bn

World’s richest man was worth $2bn 10 years ago. His wealth surged by $68bn within the last year alone

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 14 April 2022 13:29
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Why did Elon Musk buy a big stake in Twitter?

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk topped Forbes’ annual billionaires list for the first time this month as he became Twitter’s largest shareholder, ousting former Amazon president Jeff Bezos, who spent the last four years as the richest person in the world.

Mr Musk, with an estimated net worth of $273.6bn per Forbes’ real-time tracker as of 14 April, has been on the list for a decade, with his massive wealth over the last several years attributed to his soaring and volatile Tesla stock. Two years ago, Mr Musk ranked 31st in the world on Forbes list, with stock shares in his electric vehicle company at $72.24. One year later, his fortune expanded by billions, trailing Mr Bezos by only $26bn.

In 2012, when he debuted on the list, his net worth was estimated to be $2bn. Today, Mr Musk is estimated to be $68bn richer than just one year ago.

The number of world billionaires dropped by roughly 100 people in 2022, maintaining a global net worth of $12.7 trillion, down from last year’s $13.1 trillion.

But the number of billionaires in the US grew to 725 people, worth a combined $4.7 trillion, or roughly one-third of the all billionaire wealth in the world.

“The tumultuous stock market contributed to sharp declines in the fortunes of many of the world’s richest,” said Kerry Dolan, Forbes’ assistant managing editor of wealth. “Still, more than 1,000 billionaires got wealthier over the past year.”

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A day after disclosing that he owns a 9.2 per cent stake in Twitter stock on 4 April, the social media platform disclosed in a regulatory filing that Mr Musk will join its board of directors, giving the world’s richest man a seat on the company’s board through at least 2024.

“Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board,” Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said on 5 April.

The platform’s stock gained 35 per cent following Mr Musk’s announcement, adding hundreds of millions of dollars to his fortune, while his prominence on the platform – shaped by a media environment that relies on it, largely inflating its role in media and politics – continues to be used to his own gain. His Twitter presence also has invited scrutiny from the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

However, a week later Mr Musk announced that he would not be taking a board seat - prompting speculation over his plans.

On 14 April, Mr Musk offered more than $40bn to buy Twitter and said he may sell his existing shares if the offer is not accepted.

He has said his goal in purchasing the company is to protect “free speech” and unlock what he said is the “extraordinary potential” of the social network.

Under US President Joe Biden’s pitch to Congress for a minimum tax on billionaires, American households worth more than $10m would pay a 20 per cent tax rate on income as well as unrealized gains tied to other assets, such as stocks and bonds, which are not currently taxed until they are sold off.

A ProPublica investigation found that Mr Musk paid no federal income tax in 2018; Mr Bezos paid no federal income tax in 2007 or 2011, the report found.

The report showed that Mr Musk paid a 3.27 per cent true tax rate, or $455m, for his wealth growth of $13.9bn over the five-year period between 2014 and 2018.

While his taxable income during that five-year period was $1.52bn, he did not pay any federal income taxes in 2018, according to the report

The Biden administration’s proposal “eliminates the inefficient sheltering of income for decades or generations”, according to the White House.

At a press conference last month, the president said one-hundredth of one per cent of Americans would be subjected to the tax, which he called “fair, and it raises $360bn that can be used to lower costs for families and cut the deficit”.

That proposal could see Mr Musk with a tax bill of at least $50bn.

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