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Billionaires are losing their fortunes, but it isn’t just because of the stock rout—some of them are giving their money away

July 22, 2022, 9:28 AM UTC
Microsoft founder Bill Gates wearing a tuxedo at the Time100 Gala
Bill Gates said he wanted to fall off the world's rich list. With his latest donation, he's already on his way.
Dimitrios Kambouris—Getty Images for TIME

Bill Gates pledged to give away so much money that he’d eventually fall off the world’s list of rich people. His plan is already working.

Gates’s fortune has fallen by $25.8 billion this year to date, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, leveling out at a net worth of $112 billion. The Microsoft Corporation founder is now the world’s fifth richest person, falling from fourth place at the beginning of the year.

But Gates’s dwindling fortune is mostly a controlled descent. On July 13, Gates announced he had donated $20 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was enough to knock him down a place in the rankings.

Gates tweeted that he plans “to give virtually all of my wealth to the foundation. I will move down and eventually off of the list of the world’s richest people.”

The Gates Foundation also recently received a $3.1 billion annual gift from Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett, who has now given a total of $35.7 billion to the philanthropic organization. Buffett has pledged to give up 99% of his wealth by the end of his life.

Buffett’s donations last month—which totaled $4 billion, including the $3.1 billion gift to the Gates Foundation—were enough to bump the Berkshire Hathaway chairman down to sixth place in Bloomberg’s rankings at the time. Buffett is now in seventh place as of July 21.

The rise of Adani

Gates’s charitable initiatives have made room on the Billionaires list for Asia’s wealthiest entrepreneur, Gautam Adani, to advance upward—slipping into fourth place with a net worth of $112.5 billion.

The 60-year-old founder of Indian conglomerate Adani Group, which has interests in commodity trading, power generation, mining and port operations, inched above Gates to claim fourth place on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index as of Thursday, beating Gates by $230 million.

Adani Group companies have surged on Indian stock markets this year, as investors predict the Group’s recent investments in green tech and telecoms are well-placed to benefit from increased government attention on sectors like renewable energy, airports and defense contracting.

Adani has seen the largest net worth gain in absolute terms this year, increasing his net worth by $36 billion.

The tech stock rout

Gates and Buffett’s dips in fortune are, at least, partly planned. Other billionaires on the list have not been so lucky.

The rout in tech stocks this year has sunk the fortunes of several of the world’s top billionaires, whose net worths are tied to equity in the companies they founded or managed. Tesla shares are down 32% for the year, while Amazon’s are down 27%.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos have seen their fortunes decline by $28.6 billion and $44.1 billion respectively. But the duo still retain first and second place on Bloomberg’s billionaires list. 

The fall in tech stocks has hammered Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg, who dropped from seventh place on the billionaires ranking at the beginning of the year to 17th place now, after losing $57.5 billion. (Zuckerberg is still worth $67.7 billion.) Bloomberg estimates that 95% of Zuckerberg’s fortune comes from Meta shares—which are down 45% for the year.

But the biggest drop in fortunes, at least according to Bloomberg’s calculation, is that of Binance founder Changpeng Zhao, whose wealth has sunk by almost $69 billion so far this year, giving him a net worth of just $27.3 billion as of July 21. Zhao was, at a time, the 15th wealthiest person in the world, but has since sunk to 45th place.

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