The centibillionaire club is expanding

Mark Zuckerberg is the third person to be worth $100bn, with Elon Musk not far behind

Billionaires are small town; for elite bragging rights "centibillionaire" is the new threshold. The word had little cause to be used before 2018, when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos became the first: his wealth crossed the $100 billion (€84.9bn) mark. Microsoft founder Bill Gates soon joined him. Now there's a third member of the club, with a fourth knocking on the door.

After flirting with the $100 billion level two weeks ago, Facebook co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was once again in the "12-digit club" as stock markets closed on Thursday night, thanks to that day's 2.4 per cent gain in Facebook's share price. This tipped his fortune up to $102 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which keeps daily track of these things.

On the verge of fourth musketeer status – and vying for bronze – is Elon Musk, who this week overtook French luxury goods boss Bernard Arnault in the wealth stakes. On Thursday alone Musk's riches swelled more than $5 billion thanks to the soaring share price of Tesla, the electric car maker he co-founded, and he woke up on Friday worth $95.2 billion.

But it is the year-to-date changes that are truly astounding. Musk has added a whopping $67.6 billion to his name in 2020, meaning his wealth has tripled during the pandemic. Only ecommerce king Bezos has collected more this year, with his total net worth of $194 billion up $79.2 billion. While his year-to-date gain is a more modest $8.5 billion, Gates looks set to hang on to silver for now with total net worth of $122 billion as of Friday morning.


That a great deal of this is paper wealth – the by-product of mind-boggling share price escalations for a clutch of technology stocks – may do little to lessen the queasiness that such numbers induce. At a basic level the power exerted by these individuals, and their mammoth companies, exemplifies the deeper malaises of unfettered capitalism, from inequality to failure to regulate.

It may yet unravel in spectacular fashion – Tesla’s valuation in particular has attracted much scepticism from analysts. In the meantime Bezos is on track to become the world’s first double centibillionaire. From there, it could be just a quick $800 billion to the next level in this dubious game: trillionaire.