The tech billionaires who doubled their wealth during the pandemic

17 Jan 2022

Image: © scaliger/Stock.adobe.com

Tech company founders and executives account for eight of the top 10 richest people on Earth.

Ever since the pandemic began, it has been the best of times and the worst of times. Best for the world’s 10 richest men and worst for 99pc of the global population.

This is according to a new Oxfam report, which has found that the richest 10 people on Earth doubled their wealth between March 2020 and November 2021, while those not in the richest 1pc of the world lost money, among other things, in the same period.

Future Human

Published ahead of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda starting today (17 January), the Oxfam report titled Inequality Kills found that a new billionaire has been created every 26 hours since the pandemic began – with those in tech leading the way.

Eight of the 10 richest people on Earth are involved in tech, leading some of the world’s biggest companies: Tesla, Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, Alphabet and Meta. A ninth, Warren Buffet, while not directly involved in tech, has major tech investments in his portfolio.

In Ireland, the wealth of its nine billionaires has increased by more than half from €18.3bn to €49.7bn since the pandemic started. Indian-born Irish citizen and construction tycoon Pallonji Mistry tops this list, followed by Patrick and John Collison of Stripe, according to The Irish Times.

Based on the Forbes rich list, the Oxfam report notes that a 99pc ‘windfall tax’ on the 10 richest people on Earth could pay for vaccines for everyone in the world, fill financing gaps in climate measures, universal healthcare and social protection, and address gender-based violence in more than 80 countries – while still leaving them $8bn richer than they were before Covid-19.

Here’s a quick look at the tech billionaires in the top 10 list that Oxfam has found doubled their wealth during the pandemic.

Elon Musk

With an estimated net worth of nearly $270bn, this Tesla and SpaceX chief executive is the world’s richest person. Elon Musk, who practically lives in the news cycle, has made some huge profits over the past two years after the record-breaking performance of Tesla, the world’s most valuable electric car maker, of which he owns 23pc in shares.

According to Forbes, he has earned around $293bn between January 2020 and November 2021. This figure is more than three times the gains of the next richest person on the list, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Jeff Bezos

Although he stepped down as chief executive of Amazon a year ago, Jeff Bezos is still the executive chair of the Big Tech company. Since the pandemic started, Amazon stock has soared, adding more than $86bn to Bezos’ personal net worth.

His space flight company Blue Origin also reached new heights during the pandemic, ramping up its fight with Musk’s SpaceX to be chosen by NASA as partners for forthcoming space missions.

Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and former chief executive Steve Ballmer have also raked in billions over the pandemic as Microsoft performed at record-breaking levels in revenue, with profits in its latest quarterly earning soaring to more than $20bn driven by cloud-based services.

Forbes indicates that Ballmer made nearly $50bn from Microsoft since the pandemic, while Gates – who has been spending relentlessly on Covid-19 relief efforts – pulled in around $30bn.

Larry Ellison

This Oracle co-founder and former chief executive saw his wealth almost double from $59bn in March 2020 to $125.7bn now, according to CNBC. The Silicon Valley software company, which recently moved into healthcare with a massive $28.3bn acquisition of Cerner, saw its latest quarterly earnings rise by 6pc to $10.4bn. The company also edged out Microsoft in securing a ‘tech partnership’ deal with TikTok, causing much legal drama in the process.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the famous co-founders of search giant Google and now controlling shareholders of parent company Alphabet, are the sixth and seventh richest people on Earth respectively. Page saw his wealth go up by 125pc from $50.9bn in March 2020 to $122.8bn now. Brin shared an equally jaw-dropping rise in net worth from $49.1bn to $118.3bn.

Alphabet heavily profited from the rise in online activity around the world during the pandemic, with revenues far exceeding analyst expectations to reach $61.88bn in Q2 last year.

Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg started the pandemic as chief executive of Facebook and is now the chief executive of Meta, in which he has a 13pc stake. Over the course of the pandemic, he saw his wealth almost double from $54.7bn to almost $118bn.

Just before being rebranded as Meta, Facebook recorded a strong quarterly performance in October last year as it set its eyes on the metaverse with billions pledged in the pipeline for the virtual reality world.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com