For the already wealthy and those who struck gold for the first time, 2019 was a good year for the rich.
Bloomberg News’ billionaire index is reporting on the money made this past year, including Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos remaining on the top of the heap despite a divorce settlement with his ex-wife that led to a $9 billion decrease in his portfolio:
The leveraging of a giant social-media presence, a catchy tune about a family of sharks and a burgeoning collection of junkyards are just a few of the curious ways that helped make 2019 a fertile year for fortunes to blossom around the world.
Kylie Jenner became the youngest self-made billionaire this year after her company, Kylie Cosmetics, signed an exclusive partnership with Ulta Beauty Inc. She then sold a 51% stake for $600 million.
It has been almost two months since the Washington Nationals captured their first World Series championship, but people around the world are still singing along to the baseball team’s adopted rallying cry: “Baby Shark, doo-doo doo-doo doo-doo.” The Korean family that helped popularize the viral earworm are now worth about $125 million.
The new wealthy includes Willis Johnson of Oklahoma who has amassed a $1.9 billion fortune from building a network of junkyards that sell damaged automobiles, according to Bloomberg News.
Bloomberg reported that the 500 wealthiest people around the world added $1.2 trillion to their wealth, “boosting their collective net worth 25 percent to $5.9 trillion.”
“Leading the 2019 gains was France’s Bernard Arnault, who added $36.5 billion as he rose on the Bloomberg index to become the world’s third-richest person and one of three centibillionaires — those with a net worth of at least $100 billion,” Bloomberg reported.
Ironically, Bezos was one of 52 people who had a decline in their fortune, in his case because of a divorce settlement with MacKenzie Bezos who is now on the billionaires list ranking No. 25 with a net worth of $27.5 billion.
Bloomberg reported on the winners:
- The 172 American billionaires on the Bloomberg ranking added $500 billion, with Facebook Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg up $27.3 billion and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates up $22.7 billion.
- Representation from China continued to grow, with the nation’s contingent rising to 54, second only to the U.S. He Xiangjian, founder of China’s biggest air-conditioner exporter, was the standout performer as his wealth surged 79 percent to $23.3 billion.
- Russia’s richest added $51 billion, a collective increase of 21 percent, as emerging-market assets from currencies to stocks and bonds rebounded in 2019 after posting big losses a year earlier.
- Rupert Murdoch’s personal fortune dropped by about $10 billion after proceeds from Walt Disney Co.’s purchase of Fox assets were distributed to his six children, making them billionaires in their own right.
- Interactive Brokers Group Inc.’s Thomas Peterffy saw his wealth slump by $2.1 billion as investors weighed a reshaped competitive landscape for brokerage businesses after rival Charles Schwab Corp. eliminated commissions and agreed to buy TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.
- WeWork’s Adam Neumann saw his fortune implode — at least on paper — as the struggling office-sharing company’s valuation dropped to $8 billion in October from an estimated $47 billion at the start of the year. Still, SoftBank Group Corp.’s rescue package left Neumann’s status as a billionaire intact.
And the new billionaires:
- White Claw, the “hard seltzer” that was the hit of the summer among U.S. millennials, helped boost Anthony von Mandl’s net worth to $3.6 billion.
- Mastering the art of fast-food deliveries proved rewarding for Jitse Groen, whose soaring Takeaway.com NV lifted his wealth to $1.5 billion.
- The popularity of soy milk gave eight members of Hong Kong’s Lo family a combined $1.5 billion.
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.