Despite the coronavirus pandemic affecting many businesses across the world and reducing the spending powers of many as well as company revenues, the pandemic appeared to have had little or no effect on the world’s richest.
According to Forbes’s annual billionaires’ list, the world’s richest persons are $5 trillion richer than they were one year ago. Also, the list saw the addition of 660 more billionaires than a year ago, expanding Forbes’ billionaire list to 2,755.
The US still has more billionaires on the list than any other country in the world with 724, followed by China with 698, India with 140, Germany with 136, and Russia with 117.
Five South African billionaires also saw their net worth grow in 2020. They are Nicky Oppenheimer (and family), Johann Rupert (and family), Patrice Motsepe, Koos Bekker, and Michiel Le Roux.
Nicky Oppenheimer & family
Nicky Oppenheimer is worth $8.0 billion after his wealth grew by $600 million. Oppenheimer in 2014 started Fireblade Aviation in Johannesburg, which operates chartered flights with its fleet of 3 planes and 2 helicopters. He also owns at least 720 square miles of conservation land across South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
According to Forbes, Oppenheimer sold his 40% stake in diamond firm DeBeers to mining group Anglo American for $5.1 billion in cash in 2012. He was the third generation of his family to run DeBeers and took the company private in 2001. Also, the Oppenheimer family, for 85 years until 2012, occupied a controlling spot in the world’s diamond trade.
Johann Rupert has a net worth of $7.6 billion and is ranked 334 on the list. He is chairman of Swiss luxury goods firm Compagnie Financiere Richemont. Rupert also owns a 7% stake in diversified investment firm Remgro, which he chairs, as well as 25% of Reinet, an investment holding co. based in Luxembourg.
Koos Bekker has a net worth of $3 billion. His wealth comes from media and investment. Bekker is revered for transforming South African newspaper publisher Naspers into an e-commerce investor and cable TV powerhouse.
Patrice Motsepe is the founder and chairman of African Rainbow Minerals. He became a billionaire in 2008. Though he is ranked as the fourth richest man in the country, figures from Forbes show that he saw the largest growth in his wealth over the last year. His net worth more than doubled (+107%) to $2.9 billion. In 2020, it was $1.4 billion.
Mostepe, in 2016, launched a new private equity firm, African Rainbow Capital, focused on investing in Africa. He also has a stake in Sanlam, a listed financial services firm, and is the president and owner of the Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club. He is currently the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
In 1994, he became the first Black partner at law firm Bowman Gilfillan in Johannesburg and then started a mining service contracting business. In 1997, he bought low-producing gold mine shafts and later turned them profitable.
Michiel Le Roux
Le Roux is worth $1.2 billion. This is the first time the 71-year-old is making the list since 2019. Le Roux is the founder of Capitec Bank and still owns an 11% stake, according to Forbes. He retired as chairman in 2016, but still serves on the board.
The Forbes list also saw 493 newcomers, including 210 from China and Hong Kong and 98 from the U.S. The richest on the list of newcomers is Miriam Adelson of Nevada, who is worth $38.2 billion. Forbes reports that she inherited her husband Sheldon Adelson’s casino empire following his death in January.
Another new entrant in the list is African-American film actor, producer, and entrepreneur Tyler Perry while Whitney Wolfe Herd, co-founder of Bumble dating app, is the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire.
The billionaires altogether, according to Forbes, are worth $13.1 trillion, up from $8 trillion on the 2020 list. Also, a staggering 86% of all billionaires are richer than a year ago. Despite the record number of new billionaires, as many as 250 people fell below the billionaire status, per the list.
Per the list, Amazon and CNN founder Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world, with a net worth of $177 billion, up from $64 billion from a year ago. The increase in his net worth has been attributed to surging Amazon shares.
South African-born Elon Musk was the biggest gain on the list in dollar terms, taking the number 2 spot with a net worth of $151 billion, a whopping $126.4 billion more than a year ago when he ranked No. 31 and was worth $24.6 billion.