Who is the richest person in the world?
In March 2021, Forbes released its annual billionaires list, which ranks the richest people on Earth by net worth. This year’s biggest change: Elon Musk’s giant leap — from the outside looking in, to the top, looking down.
Here are the 20 richest people on the planet, as of spring 2021, as well as a look at who’s been bounced from the 2020 list.
BOUNCED: Julia Koch & family (U.S.)
Julia Koch, a former assistant to fashion designer Adolfo, is the widow of David Koch, whose family conglomerate is one of the largest privately held companies in the United States.
She falls outside of the top 20 richest people in the world for 2021, with a net worth of $46.4 billion.
BOUNCED: Charles Koch (U.S.)
Charles Koch is a billionaire philanthropist and CEO of Koch Industries. He ranked at No. 18 on the 2020 Forbes billionaires list but fell out of the top 20 in 2021.
His net worth is $46.4 billion.
BOUNCED: Jack Ma (China)
Jack Ma is the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group. In 2020, he was the world’s 17th richest person.
This year, he ranks outside of the top 20, despite adding $9.6 billion to his net worth. Ma has $48.4 billion, according to Forbes.
20. Michael Bloomberg (U.S.)
Co-founder, Bloomberg L.P.
Net worth: $59 billion
He dropped out of the race in March 2020, endorsing frontrunner Joe Biden and transferring his remaining campaign cash to the Democratic Party.
19. Rob Walton (U.S.)
Net worth: $59.5 billion
Scion of Walmart
Rob Walton is the oldest son of Sam, the founder of Walmart.
Walton and his wife, Melani, are major donors in a proposed project to build the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora, North Dakota.
18. Jim Walton (U.S.)
Walmart heir; chairman and CEO, Arvest Bank Group, Inc.
Net worth: $60.2 billion
Giving away a billion
Jim Walton is the youngest son of Walmart founder Sam Walton.
Seen here with siblings Rob (left) and Alice, Jim Walton gave away $1.2 billion worth of his Walmart stock in 2019. He reportedly gave it to several charities, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
17. Alice Walton (U.S.)
Net worth: $61.8 billion
A medical school for the 21st century
In spring of 2021, Alice Walton announced a plan to build a state-of-the-art medical school in Bentonville, Arkansas.
The project, called the Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences, is scheduled to break ground in 2022.
16. Carlos Slim Helu & family (Mexico)
Honorary chairman, América Móvil
Net worth: $62.8 billion
Keeping trains running
Slim Helu’s latest investment involves not telecommunication, but transportation.
He and Mexico’s government are collaborating on a railroad line in the country’s southeastern region. Slim is the richest man in Mexico.
15. Ma Huateng (China)
Chairman of Tencent Holdings
Net worth: $65.8 billion
So many users, so many dollars
Ma Huateng might not be a household name in the United States, but you’ve definitely heard of the app his company created.
Tencent’s social messaging platform, WeChat, has more than 1 billion users.
14. Steve Ballmer (U.S.)
Former CEO of Microsoft; current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers
Net worth: $68.7 billion
Rooting for the Clippers
Once known as Microsoft’s 30th employee, Ballmer ran the company from 2000 to 2014.
He now spends most of his time minding his Los Angeles basketball team.
13. Zhong Shanshan (China)
Founder and chairman of Nongfu Spring bottled water and beverage company
Net worth: $68.7 billion
A big paycheck
In September 2020, Nongfu’s initial public offering more than doubled Zhong’s wealth.
He is the richest person in China, according to Forbes.
12. Francoise Bettencourt Meyers & family (France)
Chairwoman of family’s L’Oréal holdings and granddaughter of L’Oréal’s founder
Net worth: $73.6 billion
One of the world’s richest women
One of the richest women in the world — and the richest on this list — Bettencourt Meyers, together with her family, owns 33% of the cosmetics company L’Oreal.
In 2019, the juggernaut logged its best sales growth in more than a decade.
11. Amancio Ortega (Spain)
Net worth: $77 billion
Ortega learned to sew shirts by hand before launching his own fast-fashion business with first wife Rosalía Mera.
Despite a disappointing fourth quarter of 2020 — generally, people spent less during the COVID-19 lockdowns — Ortega was still able to add nearly $22 billion to his net worth since last year.
10. Mukesh Ambani (India)
Chairman of Reliance Industries
Net worth: $84.5 billion
Ambani’s late father, Dhirubhai Ambani, founded Reliance as a small textiles company in 1966.
By the 1990s, the company had diversified its portfolio to include petrochemical and telecom businesses in addition to textile manufacturing.
9. Sergey Brin (U.S.)
Controlling shareholder, Alphabet Inc.
Net worth: $89 billion
Alphabet is the parent company of Google. Brin and fellow billionaire Larry Page co-founded Google in 1998, while the two were Ph.D. students at Stanford.
In 2019, Brin retired as president of Alphabet, but he remains a board member and employee.
8. Larry Page (U.S.)
Controlling shareholder, Alphabet Inc.
Net worth: $91.5 billion
No more “daily nagging”
Like his co-founder, Page also stepped down as a day-to-day Alphabet executive — in his case, CEO — in 2019.
In explaining their decision, the pair wrote a joint letter saying, “Today, in 2019, if the company was a person, it would be a young adult of 21 and it would be time to leave the roost … we believe it’s time to assume the role of proud parents – offering advice and love, but not daily nagging!”
7. Larry Ellison (U.S.)
Net worth: $93 billion
In February 2020, Ellison’s Porcupine Creek estate, near Palm Springs, California, hosted a fundraiser for Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign.
Reportedly, for $100,000, guests could buy a photo op and an invitation to a golf outing with the then-president. For a quarter of a million dollars, they could also attend a round-table discussion.
6. Warren Buffett (U.S.)
CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
Net worth: $96 billion
Funding renewable energy
In May 2020, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary landed permission to build one of the biggest solar energy installations on Earth.
When it’s completed, the $1 billion Gemini Solar Project, near Las Vegas, will be the world’s eighth-largest solar-power complex.
5. Mark Zuckerberg (U.S.)
Co-founder and CEO, Facebook
Net worth: $97 billion
An increasingly private island
In March 2021, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, reportedly bought 600 acres on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Combined with their existing 700-acre property on the island, the pair now owns more than 2 square miles of land, or 2.5% of Kauai’s land mass.
4. Bill Gates (U.S.)
Net worth: $124 billion
A high-profile divorce
In May 2021, Bill and Melinda Gates announced they were divorcing, after 27 years of marriage.
Depending on the details of the divorce settlement, Melinda Gates may soon rise to the ranks of the richest people in the world.
3. Bernard Arnault & family (France)
Chairman and CEO, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton
Net worth: $150 billion
Going all-in on LVMH
Already a controlling shareholder in the French luxury goods company that owns Louis Vuitton, Arnault recently spent $538 million to further invest in the burgeoning LVMH stock.
The company’s share value increased steadily since March 2020.
2. Elon Musk (U.S.)
CEO of Tesla and SpaceX
Net worth: $151 billion
A lucrative pandemic
Musk’s wealth has skyrocketed by more than 500% since January 2020.
One of his biggest moneymakers: Tesla. The car manufacturer’s stock prices shot up from around $88 a share in January 2020 to a whopping $880 in January 2021.
1. Jeff Bezos (U.S.)
Net worth: $177 billion
Divorce creates new billionaire
Bezos divorced wife MacKenzie in 2019. As part of their split settlement, Bezos ceded one-quarter of his Amazon stake, 4% of the whole company.
The exchange landed MacKenzie Scott, 50, on the Forbes billionaires list, at No. 22. Her net worth now sits at $53 billion.