It’s been a great year to get rich, especially if you already were. Of the 2,660 billionaires in the world, a staggering 1,800 are wealthier today than they were on New Year’s Day 2021, according to Forbes’ estimates. Some have added hundreds of millions of dollars to their net worths. Others have gained billions.
Then there’s another group: the elite of the elite, who have added tens of billions of dollars to their already-massive fortunes in the span of a single year. In all, the top ten biggest gainers of 2021 are a collective $458 billion richer this year—accounting for over a quarter of the more than $1.6 trillion in wealth gained by the planet’s billionaires from January 1 through December 10, 2021.
Six U.S. moguls are among this group of top ten gainers, all hailing from the tech or tech-adjacent industries. The S&P 500 has climbed by 27% and the Nasdaq Composite has jumped by 23%; these six American billionaires, who added a total of $304 billion to their fortunes, have trounced the market, growing their net worths by 51% on average.
With many markets surging around the globe, four other countries or territories had a big billionaire gainer in 2021: India, France, China and Hong Kong.
Here are the ten billionaires who got the richest in dollar terms in 2021 (data as of December 10, 2021):
1. Elon Musk
Net worth: $265.4 billion
Gain in 2021: +$109.8 billion
What more can be said about Elon Musk’s crazy year? The Tesla and SpaceX chief has kept his schedule packed, between selling his California mansions and moving into a roughly 400-square-foot “foldable, prefabricated” Texas dwelling, reportedly breaking up with his popstar girlfriend and taking to Twitter to post memes, argue with politicians and ponder retirement. He’s been stuffing his wallet too, thanks to Tesla shares going through the roof, jumping 39%, plus SpaceX’s skyrocketing valuation. In November, he became the first person ever worth $300 billion–though it didn’t last long. Tesla stock soon retreated after Musk posted a poll on Twitter and said he would sell some of his shares, knocking billions from his fortune. But he’s still ending the year with plenty to be thankful for. Musk was 2020’s biggest gainer, adding some $110 billion to his fortune—the biggest one-year gain Forbes has ever found. He did it again in 2021, gaining about $110 billion for the second year straight, tying his own record.
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2. Gautam Adani & family
Net worth: $81.1 billion
Gain in 2021: +$52.5 billion
Bullish investors in India have pushed the country’s BSE SENSEX index up by 23%, helping the country score the world’s second-biggest gainer this year. His Adani Group—which spans infrastructure, commodities, power generation and real estate—has benefitted from a series of bold bets. Shares of publicly traded Adani Gas have jumped 400% this year; power company Adani Transmission is up 330%; conglomerate Adani Enterprises, meanwhile, is up 250%.
3. Larry Page
Net worth: $126.3 billion
Gain in 2021: +$49.1 billion
Shares of Google-parent Alphabet have jumped 71% this year amid strong earnings reports and share buybacks. “GOOGL stock has clearly been the most liked, best owned, and least debated megacap internet name,” JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth said in a report to clients. Good news for Page, who cofounded the business in 1998 with with fellow Stanford Ph.D. student Sergey Brin and remains a major shareholder and board member.
4. Larry Ellison
Net worth: $135.7 billion
Gain in 2021: +$47.5 billion
Ellison has made a bundle on two big bets this year. Shares of Oracle, the software giant he cofounded and leads as chairman and chief technology officer, have climbed 61%. He’s also the second-largest individual shareholder of Tesla, where he’s sat on the board since 2018, after purchasing 3 million shares that year, likely for less than $1 billion. He owns about 1.5% of the business, second only to Musk, worth more than $15 billion as of December 10, 2021.
5. Sergey Brin
Net worth: $121.7 billion
Gain in 2021: +$46.7 billion
The other Google cofounder, Brin has kept a relatively low profile since he and Page stepped back from running the business in 2019, though he too remains on Alphabet’s board. He’s backing a secretive airship company called LTA Research and Exploration and has funded research of Parkinson’s disease, which runs in his family. In May he sold Alphabet shares for the first time since 2017, though he’s held onto enough to reap billions from the Google-parent’s skyrocketing stock price.
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6. Bernard Arnault & family
Net worth: $193.9 billion
Gain in 2021: +$43 billion
The French luxury goods tycoon was briefly the world’s richest person earlier this year, thanks to a surge in LVMH’s stock price, before he was surpassed by Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Arnault is currently No. 3 on the planet, behind only those two, as shares of LVMH—which owns Louis Vuitton, Moët and Hennessy, plus brands like Fendi, Christian Dior and Givenchy—have climbed 29% in 2021 amid strong demand from luxury buyers.
7. Steve Ballmer
Net worth: $107.5 billion
Gain in 2021: +$32.3 billion
His Los Angeles Clippers basketball team is worth an estimated 20% more than it was last year, but that’s not the main reason Ballmer’s gotten so rich. Shares of Microsoft, where he was the 30th employee and served as CEO from 2000 to 2014, are up 57% this year as investors have cheered strong revenue and earnings growth.
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8. Zhang Yiming
Net worth: $59.4 billion
Gain in 2021: +$31.7 billion
ByteDance, which he founded in 2012, has taken over the world with its social video app TikTok, helping make him a rare Chinese big gainer in a year when many of the country’s tycoons have stepped back from their companies and lost billions in net worth as Beijing clamped down on domestic industries and concerns over real estate debt spooked investors. Zhang, who owns an estimated 22% stake of the private company, stepped down as CEO in May, then left his chairman’s role in November amid mounting government scrutiny of the internet sector.
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9. Robin Zeng
Country: Hong Kong
Net worth: $57.6 billion
Gain in 2021: +$26.8 billion
Shares of his Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), one of the world’s largest suppliers of batteries for electric vehicles, are up 58%. CATL—whose customers include BMW, Volkswagen, Geely and, reportedly, Tesla—has focused on China’s rapidly growing EV industry, and recently announced plans to raise $9 billion to expand lithium-ion battery production. Zeng launched the business in 2011.
10. Bill Gates
Net worth: $139.2 billion
Gain in 2021: +$18.9 billion
It’s been a tough year for Gates, who got a divorce and faced criticism for his ties to Jeffrey Epstein and a past affair. “I can’t deny that it’s been a year of great personal sadness for me,” Gates recently wrote in a year-in-review post. “Adapting to change is never easy, no matter what it is.” His fortune, however, is doing all right. Despite falling from the top two of The Forbes 400 ranking of America’s richest people for the first time in 30 years, and despite transferring assets worth at least $6.2 billion to Melinda, Gates is nearly $19 billion richer than he was when he began 2021, thanks in large part to great returns from his portfolio, which includes shares of Microsoft and companies like Republic Services and Berkshire Hathaway.