The richest of the rich are wealthier than ever, with a combined net worth of $1.8 trillion.
No group has benefited from the white-hot market more than the 20 richest people on Forbes’ 40th annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, all of whom saw their fortunes increase in the past year — significantly in most cases. Eight of them are now worth $100 billion or more, up from just two a year ago and none in 2017.
The combined net worth of this elite echelon of The Forbes 400 list has gotten an unprecedented $500 billion richer over the past year. They’re now worth a collective $1.8 trillion—a figure greater than the GDP of Canada. Admission to the top 20 now requires a fortune of $36 billion, the most ever, to qualify (up from $29 billion last year). Forbes calculated net worths for this year’s Forbes 400 list using stock prices and exchange rates from September 3, 2021— which turned out to be just about the all-time peak for U.S. stock indices. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average indices both declined at least 4% in the four weeks following September 3.
The world’s richest person as of the list’s measurement date was Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, with a net worth of $201 billion, though Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX has since stolen the crown (at least temporarily), becoming the third person (and second American) ever to be worth $200 billion on September 27.
This year’s top 20 includes two first-time members: Investor Len Blavatnik, who has taken both Warner Music and cloud computing firm DigitalOcean public since June 2020, and Stephen Schwarzman, cofounder of alternative investments giant Blackstone. They replace the late casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson (who died in January) and two heirs to the Mars family candy dynasty—siblings John Mars and Jacqueline Mars.
Another big change: Bill Gates—who, after announcing in May his divorce from wife of 27 years Melinda French Gates, has transferred her stock in public companies worth at least $5.7 billion—has dropped out of the top two for the first time in three decades.
No. 1 ON FORBES 400 OVER THE YEARS
Still, the top 20 remains both male and technology dominated. Tech tycoons, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, make up 10 of the 20 spots. There are only three women among these ranks: Walmart heir Alice Walton, Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie Scott and the late David Koch’s widow Julia Koch — all of whom inherited their wealth.
Here’s a closer look at the 20 richest people on the 2021 Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans. Net worths are as of September 3, 2021:
1. Jeff Bezos
NET WORTH: $201 billion (up from $179 billion).
Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon in July—and promptly launched himself into space, spending ten minutes outside the atmosphere aboard his company Blue Origin’s first manned spaceflight. His net worth also reached new heights: He’s up $22 billion in the past year, becoming the first person on The Forbes 400 worth more than $200 billion.
2. Elon Musk
NET WORTH: $190.5 billion (up from $68 billion)
SOURCE: Tesla, SpaceX
Musk’s electric carmaker, Tesla, has been profitable for eight straight quarters and posted its highest net income ever in July— thanks to sales of emissions credits—helping drive his fortune up by $120 billion in one year. In August, he unveiled plans for the Tesla Bot, a humanoid robot to run on technology used in Tesla vehicles. His rocket company, SpaceX, completed its first all-civilian mission in September.
3. Mark Zuckerberg
NET WORTH: $134.5 billion (up from $85 billion)
In August, the Federal Trade Commission refiled a lawsuit that, if successful, could force Facebook to split up its Instagram and WhatsApp businesses. So far no amount of regulatory danger or controversy—including criticism from President Biden over Facebook’s role in proliferating vaccine misinformation—has been able to curb the social media company’s steady stock-market ascent. In June, Facebook hit a $1 trillion market capitalization for the first time. The fortune of its founder and CEO has risen by $49.5 billion in one year.
4. Bill Gates
NET WORTH: $134 billion (up from $111 billion)
Gates drops out of the top two for the first time in three decades. The Microsoft cofounder, whose 27-year marriage to Melinda French Gates ended in May, transferred $5.7 billion of stock in companies like Canadian National Railway and Deere & Co. to her. In September he spent $2.2 billion to boost his stake in Four Seasons Hotels to 71%, from 48%.
5. Larry Page
NET WORTH: $123 billion (up from $67.5 billion)
6. Sergey Brin
NET WORTH: $118.5 billion (up from $65.7 billion)
The duo stepped down as chief executive and president, respectively, of Google parent Alphabet in late 2019 amid a Congressional antitrust investigation but remain on the board and retain controlling stakes in it. Page has reportedly been riding out the pandemic in Fiji; Brin, whose yacht was recently spotted near Fiji and Tahiti, set up a Singapore branch of his family office.
7. Larry Ellison
NET WORTH: $117.3 billion (up from $72 billion)
The Oracle cofounder, chief technology officer and chairman announced in December 2020 that he had moved to Lanai, the Hawaiian island he bought nearly all of for $300 million in 2012. In April, he paid $80 million for a Palm Beach mansion that he reportedly plans to tear down.
8. Warren Buffett
NET WORTH: $102 billion (up from $73.5 billion)
SOURCE: Berkshire Hathaway
The Oracle of Omaha, who was famously reluctant to plunge into tech stocks, has been amassing a 21st-century portfolio. Berkshire Hathaway now owns billion-dollar stakes in Apple, Amazon and Snowflake. In June, it pumped $500 million into Brazilian fintech Nubank.
9. Steve Ballmer
NET WORTH: $96.5 billion (up from $69 billion)
The high-octane former Microsoft chief gave $38 million to groups in Washington to address the state’s workforce shortage in behavioral health; nearly a quarter of adults there with mental illness reported not being able to access care. In September, his NBA team, the Los Angeles Clippers, broke ground on a new 18,000-seat arena that will reportedly cost him north of $1 billion.
10. Michael Bloomberg
NET WORTH: $70 billion (up from $55 billion)
SOURCE: Bloomberg LP
The former New York City mayor plowed $1.2 billion into his failed presidential bid and to support other candidates in the 2020 election; he also gave away $1.6 billion via his Bloomberg Philanthropies. This year his giving has included donations to Covid-19 response efforts, climate change mitigation and creating a center at Princeton, named for his eldest daughter, Emma, aimed at increasing student diversity.
11. Jim Walton
NET WORTH: $68.8 billion (up from $62.1 billion)
12. Alice Walton
NET WORTH: $67.9 billion (up from $62.3 billion)
13. Rob Walton
NET WORTH: $67.6 billion (up from $61.8 billion)
Walmart, America’s largest private employer, is ending quarterly bonuses for store staffers but raising its minimum wage by $1, to $12 an hour, amid nationwide worker shortages. The children of founder Sam Walton own an estimated 39% of the retailing giant’s shares—which are up 14% since last year—despite cashing out of some $6.4 billion worth of stock over the past year. Only Rob sits on the board.
14. Phil Knight & family
NET WORTH: $59.9 billion (up from $39.2 billion)
Nike came out of the first year of the pandemic with strong momentum, with revenue up 19% to nearly $45 billion for the year ending May 2021. Shares of the sportswear giant Knight founded hit an all-time high in August. He and his wife, Penny, also made a second $500 million pledge to his alma mater, the University of Oregon, in July.
15. MacKenzie Scott
NET WORTH: $58.5 billion (up from $57 billion)
The press-shy ex-wife of Jeff Bezos is giving away her fortune with almost unheard-of speed and stealth. So far this year, she has donated $2.7 billion to 286 groups— bringing her total giving since July 2020 to nearly $8.6 billion. Her donations often come as a surprise to recipients and are made without strings attached, but she has faced some calls for more transparency. In March, news broke that she married a Seattle science teacher who worked at the private school her children attend.
16. Charles Koch
NET WORTH: $51 billion (up from $45 billion)
SOURCE: Koch Industries
16. Julia Koch & family
NET WORTH: $51 billion (up from $45 billion)
SOURCE: Koch Industries
Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch is on a quest to modernize his industrial giant, making $19 billion in technology-related investments since 2017. Some of its portfolio companies, such as automation startup Outrider, have partnered with Koch subsidiaries like paper-goods maker Georgia-Pacific. Charles and his brother David’s widow, Julia Koch, each own 42% of the firm.
18. Michael Dell
NET WORTH: $50.1 billion (up from $35.6 billion)
SOURCE: Dell computers
Shares of Dell Technologies have soared by 60% since last year’s list, adding nearly $15 billion to the fortune of its chairman and CEO. In April, Dell Technologies announced that it would spin off its crown jewel, an 81% stake in cloud infrastructure giant VMware, by the end of the year. Michael Dell will serve as chairman of both companies.
19. Stephen Schwarzman
NET WORTH: $37.4 billion (up from $19.1 billion)
Rising capital markets have buoyed Schwarzman’s alternative investments giant Blackstone, which has increased its assets under management from $564 billion to $684 billion in the past year. Its stock price has also doubled over that time, pushing his net worth up by $18.3 billion and putting him among the nation’s 20 richest for the first time. Blackstone’s inaugural growth equity fund, which has invested in dating app Bumble and oat milk maker Oatly, raised $4.5 billion as of its close in March. Schwarzman, who cofounded the firm in 1985, is CEO and chairman.
20. Len Blavatnik
NET WORTH: $36.7 billion (up from $25 billion)
SOURCE: Music, chemicals
The $5 billion IPO of Blavatnik-backed cloud computing firm DigitalOcean in March helped the Soviet Union–born mogul break into the top 20 for the first time. Shares of Blavatnik’s Warner Music Group are up 35% since last year’s list, while his sports streaming service, DAZN, has reached nearly 10 million subscribers.