How Much Money America’s Billionaires Have Made During The Covid-19 Pandemic


by: Chase Peterson-Withorn | Published: April 30, 2021

“Twenty million Americans lost their job in the pandemic,” Joe Biden remarked in his Wednesday night address to Congress. “At the same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 trillion . . . and they’re now worth more than $4 trillion.”

That’s true, according to Forbes` data—but the numbers are actually a bit richer. Total American billionaire wealth stands at $4.6 trillion as of the stock market close on April 28, by our count. That’s up 35% from $3.4 trillion when markets opened on January 1, 2020, just as Covid-19 was beginning to take the world by storm.

In other words, U.S. billionaires have gotten about $1.2 trillion richer during the pandemic.

Markets are surging, despite more than a year of lockdowns and a spike in unemployment, leading to a boost in the value of 401(k)s, IRAs and other investment accounts for Americans everywhere. The S&P 500 is up 29% since January 1, 2020, even with the March 2020 Covid crash; the Dow Jones Industrial Average is likewise up 19%. But many billionaires—who often have much of their wealth tied up in individual companies, or portfolios of investments in things like private equity and hedge funds that are not available to average Americans—are faring much better. Three quarters of America’s 722 billionaires are as rich, or richer, than they were before the pandemic—some by billions, tens of billions, or even more than one hundred billion dollars.

Just 20 big gainers account for more than half of the increase in all U.S. billionaires’ wealth. The biggest gainer of all, in dollar terms: Elon Musk, who has had an incredible run since the beginning of 2020. The Tesla and SpaceX chief’s net worth has skyrocketed an incredible 540%, from about $27 billion in early January 2020 to more than $170 billion today. For that he can thank Tesla stock—which is up more than 700% as enthusiasm for the electric vehicle maker has pushed shares into the stratosphere—plus hefty Tesla stock option awards and an $850 million funding round for SpaceX, which lifted the private spaceflight firm’s valuation to a reported $74 billion. In early January 2021, Musk spent a brief time as the world’s richest person, though he has since fallen back to No. 3.

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, has also been a winner. Shares of Amazon are up by 87% over the past 15 months as quarantining shoppers have flocked to the e-commerce giant during the pandemic, helping drive an $86 billion increase in Bezos’ fortune since January 2020. Forbes estimates that Bezos is the first person in history worth more than $200 billion.

Other big gainers include Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who are worth $102 billion and $99 billion, respectively—making them each more than $40 billion richer than before the pandemic. They’re two of 15 tech billionaires who are among the 25 biggest gainers since the pandemic began, as tech stocks have fared particularly well.

Big Billionaire Gains

These 10 members of the three-comma club have added a collective $488 billion to their fortunes since the beginning of 2020.

BillionaireSource of WealthWealth Gain (since Jan.1, 2020)
Elon MuskTesla, SpaceX+$144B
Daniel GilbertQuicken Loans+$40B
Larry EllisonOracle+$34B
Bill GatesMicrosoft+$22B
Larry PageGoogle+$42B
Sergey BrinGoogle+$41B
Mark ZuckerbergFacebook+$35B
Michael DellDell computers+$19B
Jeff BezosAmazon+$86B
MacKenzie ScottAmazon+$25B

Billionaires aren’t just richer since the pandemic began, there are also more of them. A record 493 new faces joined ''Forbes` World’s Billionaires list this year—roughly one new billionaire every 17 hours between March 2020 and March 2021—including 98 newcomers from the U.S. That includes famous faces like Kim Kardashian West, moviemaker Tyler Perry and Apple CEO Tim Cook. It also includes ten new billionaires who got rich riding the SPAC wave, like laser lidar mogul Austin Russell and serial SPAC sponsors Chamath Palihapitiya and Bill Foley. With cryptocurrencies soaring, nine new crypto billionaires emerged, including the Winklevoss twins, FTX exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried and Silicon Valley investor Tim Draper.

Then there are those who have made a fortune fighting the Covid-19 virus, including August Troendle, whose Medpace helps pharmaceutical companies run clinical trials for Covid-19 drugs, and three American shareholders of Covid vaccine developer Moderna: Timothy Springer, Noubar Afeyan and Robert Langer.

Not that the entire .01% has seen their wallets fatten since the pandemic began. Oil moguls like Harold Hamm and George Kaiser are worth less than they were at the beginning of 2021, as the energy industry has been slow to recover. Many real estate tycoons are facing strong headwinds too, as brick-and-mortar retail struggles and demand for office space has dried up. That has dented the fortunes of billionaires like Jeff Sutton, Jerry Speyer and, yes, Donald Trump. Forbes estimates that the former president is worth $2.4 billion - down from $3.1 billion just before Covid struck.

Changing winds in Washington might spell more trouble for billionaires’ bank accounts. On Wednesday, President Biden detailed proposed increased taxes on the ultrawealthy, including raising the top income tax rate and the top long-term capital gains tax rate. “Sometimes I have arguments with my friends in the Democratic Party,” Biden said in his Wednesday address. “I think you should be able to become a billionaire and a millionaire, but pay your fair share.”

The S&P 500 climbed by 0.68% on Thursday, following the speech. American billionaire wealth, meanwhile, rose by nearly 5%—making the country’s billionaires a collective $200 billion richer in a single day.

Tags: Date-2021-04-30, TheBigCovidLie, USA, CorporateOligarchs, Kapital

This page may have a talk page?.

Access and use of this site by any means implies consent to the Agreement of Use. ©