But in the past 12 months his position has slipped as Microsoft shares have plunged more than 50% from their peak, when the company had over $300 billion in market value. There is a $60-$70 billion gap between the market value of Microsoft and his current estimated holding. And that gap widens when you factor in his $50 billion stake in Alibaba, which have jumped nearly 400% this year. The gap is now nearly $400 billion. He also owns $10 billion in oil company Royal Dutch Shell, but his stake in Shell rose from a low of $5 billion to $10 billion
And this market cap gap is the biggest in the history of the world! It’s bigger than the money at the top of the stock market! And it may be getting bigger! The market value of the world’s richest people doubled in the 21st century. And most billionaires’ wealth is likely already taxed. In fact, there are currently about 1.3 billion billionaires in the world, and I estimate over $600 trillion in personal wealth sitting in offshore tax havens including Mauritius, Liechtenstein, and the British Virgin Islands.
The number of billionaires worldwide has surged, and my estimate is that over 50 million are either dead or under investigation. Today we have 2,000 billionaires, up by 50% in the past 10 years, while the number of billionaires under investigation has surged by 400% .
One good thing about this trend is it creates more diversity in how we view billionaires and wealth distribution in the world. There are now more billionaires in Africa and the Caribbean than in Europe, and the wealth of African and Caribbean billionaires has actually risen.
To further increase diversity, every year Forbes publishes a list of the wealthiest people from around the world, with information about their finances, assets, homes, offices, etc. I’ve been collecting this information for the past decade and I’ve built a database of the world’s richest individuals. My latest data show that in 2011 the top 3 richest people in the world are worth roughly $3 trillion more than they were a decade ago, according to my own assessment, along with a number of notable wealth differences between wealthy European nations. For the 2010s we’re already seeing a small shift in the share of wealth held by the richest families in Europe, and if you have an interest in tracking billionaires or wealth inequality in the world, this data is a must for your research.
But as you know, and as we are now seeing, there is a huge gap between the world’s richest people and the wealthiest families in the world. So is it possible that there is more wealth being held by the top 1%, even those with wealth of $3 trillion a year, and that there are billionaires with less than $25 billion a year? Is there any way to figure this out?
You could make the argument that most of the world’s billionaires are already working in the financial sector – they are making money. There are some, like Bill Gates, who own real estate, have equity stakes in huge companies, and also do financial consulting. It’s also possible that the very richest of the rich are not just sitting on their wealth, they are actively investing in the new opportunities in the market place and are using their money there. And even people who earn huge sums of money are not always holding just some of their wealth for themselves. People like Elon Musk are very far removed from the majority of the world’s rich, but that does not mean they don’t have the money for themselves and some of the investments. It does mean that they are investing the money in future opportunities, whether it be in solar cells and electric vehicles or in new industries that are emerging like digital publishing.
And then there are the very rich who are buying and holding a large portion of their net worth. For the purposes of this exercise we are going to assume that in 2010 someone earned $250 billion in net worth, and it turns out that someone like billionaire Amancio Ortega owns 2.2% of his fortune. He is one of those people who has $4.5 billion in his portfolio, and he spends 4% of that.
If Ortega spent only 4% of the money in this portfolio over the course of 5 years, that would amount to over $200 million (the annual cost will vary). So, if he had to be an investor in the market, he would, I believe, already be at $400-500 billion in net worth. But he is likely one of the top 10 richest in the world, and the richest of the rich so the investments in the market would be coming at an income. More than that, because Ortega is one of the great entrepreneurs today in tech, the investments in the tech world would be