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Technology

Tech chiefs among world’s biggest billionaire winners and losers of 2018

  • Amazon chairman Jeff Bezos was 2018’s biggest gainer, retaining his title as world’s richest man
  • Xiaomi chief executive Lei Jun trailed Bezos among year’s winners, adding US$8.6 billion to his net worth
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2019, 11:46am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2019, 11:04pm

The markets may be tanking, but that did not stop plenty of mega-fortunes from being unearthed in 2018.

The popularity of Fortnite, the phenomenon that forced some into video-game rehab, gave developer and Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney a US$7.2 billion fortune last year.

Autry Stephens, founder and chief executive of Endeavour Energy Resources, has US$11.4 billion after his closely held company attracted bids that valued the oil firm at as much as US$15 billion.

“It was a good year for wealth creation,” said Michael Zeuner, managing partner of WE Family Offices. “It was a tough year in financial markets, but for people who are creating wealth through companies, the economy itself is very strong.”

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Sweeney and Stephens were just two of the 31 individuals who vaulted onto the Bloomberg Billionaires Index in 2018, even as increasing global trade tensions and a downdraft in the markets saw half a trillion dollars of wealth on the ranking wiped out.

Denise Coates, the British founder and chief executive of online bookmaker Bet365 Group, is another addition. Coates is nearly 10 times richer than Queen Elizabeth, according to the ranking.

While Coates had a good year, market turmoil pushed many wealthy people into the red. The world’s 500 richest people lost US$451 billion this year. That was a sharp reversal from 2017, when they added US$1 trillion to their fortunes.

Here are the billionaires who gained and lost in 2018.

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Winners

Singaporean billionaires fared the best in dollar terms, gaining US$2.5 billion. That pushed the wealth of the country’s richest to a collective net worth of US$38 billion.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and chief executive, was 2018’s biggest gainer for the second year running. The world’s richest man saw his net worth grow about US$24 billion to US$123 billion. But even he was a loser in the second half of the year, as stock markets were routed. From a September peak, Bezos has since seen his fortune drop US$45 billion.

Despite Chinese billionaires’ total loss of nearly US$76 billion this year, some of the country’s richest still came out ahead, including Lei Jun, founder and chief executive of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. Lei trailed only Bezos among the biggest gainers of 2018, adding US$8.6 billion to his fortune.

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Losers

American billionaires saw the biggest loss this year, collectively dropping US$76 billion, largely because of December’s market rout.

Mark Zuckerberg saw the sharpest drop in 2018 as Facebook veered from crisis to crisis. His net worth fell nearly US$20 billion, leaving the 34-year-old with a US$53 billion fortune.

Dalian Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin, Alibaba Group Holding executive chairman Jack Ma and Tencent Holdings chairman Pony Ma Huateng made up three of the 10 biggest losers this year. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

Fifty people dropped off the index, including 11 from China or Hong Kong, nine from the US and four from Russia.

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Among those who fell off the list were Andrej Babis, the prime minister of the Czech Republic whose fortune is derived from his chemical and agricultural company Agrofert, and Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, whose net worth plunged to a record low as stock of Rusal fell on concern that the aluminium giant could halt some production because of US sanctions.

Thirteen billionaires on the ranking died this year, including Microsoft Corp’s Paul Allen, Hong Kong property magnate Walter Kwok Ping-sheung and Thai mogul Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, owner of Premier League football club Leicester City.