Jeff Bezos loses spot as richest man in the world

Billionaires’ fortunes soared during the pandemic

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 12 August 2021 10:15 BST
Jeff Bezos launches himself into space on Blue Origin rocket

Jeff Bezos is no longer the richest man in the world.

The top spot now belongs to Bernard Arnault, chairman of the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.

Mr Arnault, who owns, with a family holding company, 47 per cent of the group controlling marquee brands like Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Bulgari, Tag Heuer, Sephora, and Hennessy, was worth $196 billion as of Thursday, Business Insider reported.

Despite the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic, the firm’s stock price is up more than 30 per cent since the beginning of the year, setting sales and profit records during the first half of 2021. LVMH, which has a total market value of around $416 billion, hit $17.4 billion revenue in the second quarter, up 14 per cent from pre-pandemic levels.

Not that Mr Bezos has too much to worry about. He’s still worth a world-eating $186 billion or so, although Amazon’s recently announced earnings slump, $2 billion below analyst estimates, likely caused Mr Bezos’s net worth to go down by about $14 billion in a single day.

While catastrophic for most of the world and its inhabitants, the pandemic was a boom time for billionaires, who got between $4 to 5 trillion dollars richer during the first year of the pandemic, with their fortunes up 54 per cent, according to one estimate.

Not only that, but the billionaires club got even bigger during that one-year span, with the nearly 500 more entering the realm of the plutocrats, with one new person becoming a billionaire every 17 hours on average.

Further speaking to the distance between the upper echelons of the economy and everyone else, the stock market continues to reach record highs, with the S&P 500 reaching yet another historic milestone this week.

Meanwhile, between June and November of last year, 8 million people in the US fell below the poverty line, and Oxfam estimates that it will take more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recover from it calls the “inequality virus,” the disproportionate ways the economic devastation of the pandemic affected marginalised groups.

“Rigged economies are funnelling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in luxury, while those on the frontline of the pandemic – shop assistants, healthcare workers, and market vendors – are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table,” Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International, said in January.

In the US, even modest attempts to increase tax revenues from the wealthy have failed. Lawmakers dropped a proposal that would step up Internal Revenue Service enforcement of the already existing tax code, projected to bring in an extra $100 billion over the next 10 years in wealth either unclaimed by the government or intentionally concealed from it, before Republicans nixed the plan.

The president and Senate Democrats have called for bigger changes, like increasing tax enforcement, as well as taxes themselves, on corporations and the very wealthy, though any such expansion would face deep opposition in the evenly split Senate.

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