The Top 10 Richest Billionaires by Year Since 1987

Written by Carly Hallman

It’s tough when you’re at the top! You might be the richest man in the world one year but completely off of the Forbes billionaire list in the next.

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The World’s Billionaires: A Retrospective Transcript

The Top 10 Billionaires and Their Wealth Since the Creation of the Forbes List

Year 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2019 Jeff Bezos and Family, $131 billion Bill Gates, $96.5 billion Warren Buffett, $82.5 billion Bernard Arnault and Family, $76 billion Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $64 billion Amancio Ortega, $62.7 billion Larry Ellison, $62.5 billion Mark Zuckerberg, $62.3 billion Michael Bloomberg, $55.5 billion Larry Page, $50.8 billion
2018 Jeff Bezos and Family, $112 billion Bill Gates, $90 billion Warren Buffett, $84 billion Bernard Arnault and Family, $72 billion Mark Zuckerberg, $71 billion Amancio Ortega, $70 billion Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $67.1 billion Charles Koch, $60 billion David Koch, $60 billion Larry Ellison, $58.5 billion
2017 Bill Gates, $89 billion Jeff Bezos and Family, $72.8 billion Warren Buffett, $78 billion Amancio Ortega, $71.3 billion Mark Zuckerberg, $71 billion Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $65 billion Larry Ellison, $59 billion Charles Koch, $48.5 billion David Koch, $48.5 billion Michael Bloomberg, $46.8 billion
2016 Bill Gates, $75 billionB Amancio Ortega, $67 billion Warren Buffett, $60.8 billion Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $50.0 billion Jeff Bezos and Family, $45.2 billion Mark Zuckerberg, $44.6 billion Larry Ellison, $43.6 billion Michael Bloomberg, $40 billion Charles Koch, $39.6 billion David Koch, $39.6 billion
2015 Bill Gates, $79.2 billion Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $77.1 billion Warren Buffett, $72.7 billion Amancio Ortega, $64.5 billion Larry Ellison, $54.3 billion Charles Koch, $42.9 billion David Koch, $42.9 billion Christy Walton and Family, $41.7 billion Jim Walton, $40.6 billion Liliane Bettencourt and Family, $40.1 billion
2014 Bill Gates, $81 billion Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $72 billion Amancio Ortega, $64 billion Warren Buffett, $58.2 billion Larry Ellison, $48 billion Charles Koch, $40 billion David Koch, $40 billion Sheldon Adelson, $38 billion Christy Walton and Family, $36.7 billion Jim Walton, $34.7 billion
2013 Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $73 billion Bill Gates, $67 billion Amancio Ortega, $57 billion Warren Buffett, $53.5 billion Larry Ellison, $43 billion Charles Koch, $34 billion David Koch, $34 billion Li Ka-shing, $31 billion Liliane Bettencourt, $30 billion Bernard Arnault, $29 billion
2012 Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $69 billion Bill Gates, $61 billion Warren Buffett, $44 billion Bernard Arnault, $41 billion Amancio Ortega, $37.5 billion Larry Ellison, $36 billion Eike Batista, $30 billion Stefan Persson, $26 billion Li Ka-shing, $25.5 billion Karl Albrecht, $25.4 billion
2011 Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $74 billion Bill Gates, $56 billion Warren Buffett, $50 billion Bernard Arnault, $41 billion Larry Ellison, $39.5 billion Lakshmi Mittal, $31 billion Amancio Ortega, $31 billion Eike Batista, $30 billion Mukesh Ambani, $27 billion Christy Walton and Family, $26.5 billion
2010 Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $53.5 billion Bill Gates, $53 billion Warren Buffett, $47 billion Mukesh Ambani, $29 billion Lakshmi Mittal, $28.7 billion Lawrence Ellison, $28 billion Bernard Arnault, $27.5 billion Eike Batista, $27 billion Amancio Ortega, $25 billion Karl Albrecht, $23.5 billion
2009 Bill Gates, $40 billion Warren Buffett, $37 billion Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $35 billion Lawrence Ellison, $22.5 billion Ingvar Kamprad and Family, $22 billion Karl Albrecht, $21.5 billion Mukesh Ambani, $19.5 billion Lakshmi Mittal, $19.3 billion Theo Albrecht, $18.8 billion Amancio Ortega, $18.3 billion
2008 Warren Buffett, $62 billion Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $60 billion Bill Gates, $58 billion Lakshmi Mittal, $45 billion Mukesh Ambani, $43 billion Anil Ambani, $42 billion Ingvar Kamprad and Family, $31 billion K.P. Singh, $30 billion Oleg Deripaska, $28 billion Karl Albrecht, $27 billion
2007 Bill Gates, $56 billion Warren Buffett, $52 billion Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $49 billion Ingvar Kamprad and Family, $33 billion Lakshmi Mittal, $32 billion Sheldon Adelson, $26.5 billion Bernard Arnault, $26 billion Amancio Ortega, $24 billion Li Ka-shing, $23 billion David Thomson and Family $22 billion
2006 Bill Gates, $50 billion Warren Buffett, $42 billion Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $30 billion Ingvar Kamprad, $28 billion Lakshmi Mittal, $23.5 billion Paul Allen, $22 billion Bernard Arnault, $21.5 billion Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, $20 billion Kenneth Thomson and Family, $19.6 billion Li Ka-shing, $18.8 billion
2005 Bill Gates, $46.5 billion Warren Buffett, $44 billion Lakshmi Mittal, $25 billion Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $23.8 billion Prince Al-Waleeed bin Talal al-Saud, $23.7 billion Ingvar Kamprad, $23 billion Paul Allen, $21 billion Karl Albrecht, $18.5 billion Larry Ellison, $18.4 billion S. Robson Walton, $18.3 billion
2004 Bill Gates, $46.6 billion Warren Buffett, $42.9 billion Karl Albrecht, $23 billion Prince, Al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, $21.5 billion Paul Allen, $21 billion Alice Walton, $20 billion Helen Walton, $20 billion Jim Walton $20 billion John Walton, $20 billion S. Robson Walton, $20 billion
2003 Bill Gates, $40.7 billion Warren Buffett, $30.5 billion Karl and Theo Albrecht, $25.6 billion Paul Allen, $20.1 billion Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, $17.7 billion Larry Ellison, $16.6 billion Alice Walton, $16.5 billion Helen Walton, $16.5 billion Jim Walton, $16.5 billion John Walton, $16.5 billion
2002 Bill Gates, $52.8 billion Warren Buffett, $35 billion Karl and Theo Albrecht, $26.8 billion Paul Allen, $25.2 billion Larry Ellison, $23.5 billion Jim Walton, $20.8 billion John Walton, $20.7 billion Alice Walton, $20.5 billion S. Robson Walton, $20.5 billion Helen Walton, $20.5 billion
2001 Bill Gates, $58.7 billion Warren Buffett, $32.3 billion Paul Allen, $30.4 billion Larry Ellison, $26 billion Karl and Theo Albrecht, $25 billion Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, $20 billion Jim Walton, $18.8 billion John Walton, $18.7 billion S. Robson Walton, $18.6 billion Alice Walton*, $18.5 billion, *Tied with Helen Walton
2000 Bill Gates, $60 billion Larry Ellison, $47 billion Paul Allen, $28.0 billion Warren Buffett, $25.6 billion Karl and Theo Albrecht, $20 billion Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, $20 billion S. Robson Walton, $20 billion Masayoshi Son, $19.4 billion Michael Dell, $19.1, billion Kenneth Thomson, $16.1 billion
1999 Bill Gates, $90 billion Warren Buffett, $36 billion Paul Allen, $30 billion Steven Ballmer, $19.5 billion Oeri, Hoffman, and Sacher Families, $17 billion Philip Anschutz, $16.5 billion Michael Dell, $16.5 billion S. Robson Walton, $15.8 billion Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, $15 billion Liliane Bettencourt, $13.9 billion
1998 Bill Gates, $51 billion Walton Family, $48 billion Warren Buffett, $33 billion Paul Allen, $21 billion Kenneth Thomson, $14.4 billion Jay and Robert Pritzker, $13.5 billion Forrest Mars Sr. and Family, $13.5 billion Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, $13.3 billion Lee Shau-kee, $12.7 billion Theo and Karl Albrecht, $11.7 billion
1997 Bill Gates, $36.4 billion Walton Family, $27.6 billion Warren Buffett, $23.2 billion Lee Shau-kee, $14.7 billion Paul Allen, $14.1 billion Kwok Brothers, $12.3 billion Haas Family, $12.3 billion Forrest Mars Sr. and Family, $12 billion Theo and Karl Albrecht, $11.5 billion Tsai Wan-lin and Family, $11.3 billion
1996 Walton Family, $22.9 billion Bill Gates, $18 billion Warren Buffett, $15.3 billion Oeri, Hoffman, and Sacher Families, $13.1 billion Lee Shau-kee, $12.7 billion Tsai Wan-lin and Family, $12.2 billion Kwok Brothers, $11.2 billion Li Ka-shing, $10.6 billion Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, $9.2 billion Theo and Karl Albrecht, $9 billion
1995 Walton Family, $23.5 billion Bill Gates, $12.9 billion Warren Buffett, $10.7 billion Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, $9 billion Hans Rausing, $9 billion Paul Sacher, $8.6 billion Tsai Wan-lin, $8.5 billion Lee Shau-kee, $6.5 billion Kenneth Thomson, $6.5 billion Chung Ju-yung, $6.2 billion
1994 Walton Family, $22.6 billion du Pont Family, $9 billion Hans and Gad Rausing, $9 billion Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, $8.5 billion Bill Gates, $8.2 billion Warren Buffett, $7.9 billion Paul Sacher and Hoffmann Family, $7.8 billion Tsai Wan-lin, $7.5 billion Theo and Karl Albrecht, $7.3 billion Carlos Slim Helu and Family, $6.6 billion
1993 Walton Family, $25.3 billion Mars Family, $9.2 billion Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, $9 billion du Pont Family, $8.6 billion Minoru and Akira Mori, $7.5 billion Bill Gates, $7.4 billion Samuel and Donald Newhouse, $7 billion Sid and Lee Bass and Brothers, $6.8 billion Warren Buffett, $6.6 billion Erivan Haub, $6.2 billion
1992 Walton Family, $23.8 billion Taikichiro Mori, $13 billion Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, $10 billion Hans and Gad Rausing, $7 billion Erivan Haub, $6.9 billion Haniel Family, $6.4 billion Bill Gates, $6.4 billion David Sainsbury and Family, $6.2 billion Kenneth Thomson, $6.2 billion Shin Kyuk-ho, $6 billion
1991 Walton Family, $18.5 billion Taikichiro Mori, $15 billion Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, $14 billion du Pont Family, $10 billion Hans and Gad Rausing, $9 billion Kitaro Watanabe, $7.7 billion Paul Reichmann and Brothers, $7.1 billion Kenneth Thomson, $6.8 billion Kenkichi Nakajima, $6.1 billion Shin Kyuk-ho, $6 billion
1990 Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, $16 billion Taikichiro Mori, $14.6 billion Walton Family, $13.5 billion du Pont Family, $10 billion Hans and Gad Rausing, $9.6 billion Kitaro Watanabe, $9.2 billion Paul Reichamann and Brothers, $9 billion Kenkichi Nakajima, $8.4 billion Shin Kyuk-ho, $7.5 billion Eitaro Itoyama, $5.8 billion
1989* Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, $25 billion King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, $18 billion Forrest Mars Sr. and Family, $12.58 billion Queen Elizabeth II, $10.9 billion Samuel and Donald Newhouse, $10 billion Tsai Wan-lin, $9 billion Sam Walton, $8.9 billion Paul Reichmann and Brothers, $8.4 billion Gerald Grosvenor and Family, $6.9 billion Kenneth Thomson, $6.9 billion
1988* Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, $25 billion King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, $18 billion Forrest Mars Sr. and Family, $12.5 billion Queen Elizabeth II, $8.7 billion Samuel and Donald Newhouse, $8 billion Sam Walton, $7.4 billion Paul Reichmann and Brothers, $6.3 billion Kenneth Colin Irving, $6.2 billion Kenneth Thomson, $6.0 billion Gerald Grosvenor, $5.4 billion
1987 Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, $20 billion Taikichiro Mori, $15 billion Shigeru Kobayashi, $7.5 billion Haruhiko Yoshimoto, $7 billion Salim Ahmed bin Mahfouz, $6.2 billion Hans and Gad Rausing, $6 billion Paul Reichmann and Brothers, $6 billion Yohachiro Iwaski, $5.6 billion Kenneth Thomson, $5.4 billion Keizo Saji, $4 billion

Sources:

  • https://forbes.com
  • https://money.cnn.com
  • https://archive.fortune.com
  • https://latimes.com
  • https://telegraph.co.uk
  • https://wikipedia.org
  • https://washingtonpost.com
  • Since 1987, Forbes magazine has ranked the wealthiest people in the world. A lot has changed.

    Today, the richest man in the world is Jeff Bezos of Amazon, worth $131 billion as of March 2019. As the founder of Amazon, he owns a 16% stake in the company, which made $230 billion in one year (2018). He’s particularly interesting considering that as of 2015, he wasn’t even on the top 10 list. Forbes’s richest person by year list and the Bloomberg Billionaires Index both rank him as the wealthiest person in the world today. He shot up the charts quickly, earning his very first billion in 1999, which means he now makes more than a hundred times what he did after only two decades. That’s not bad for a mostly self-made guy who started his career flipping burgers and fixing ketchup containers at McDonald’s

    1. Jeff Bezos — $131 billion
    2. Bill Gates — $96.5 billion
    3. Warren Buffett — $82.5 billion
    4. Bernard Arnault — $76 billion
    5. Carlos Slim Helu — $64 billion
    6. Amancio Ortega — $62.7 billion
    7. Larry Ellison — $62.5 billion
    8. Mark Zuckerberg — $62.3 billion
    9. Michael Bloomberg — $55.5 billion
    10. Larry Page — $50.8 billion

    Bezos wasn’t always the wealthiest man in the world. For the vast majority of the history of the Forbes list, one man has stayed on the top the majority of the time: William Gates III, more commonly known as Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Since the list’s creation in 1987, Gates topped the rankings 16 times (in other words, roughly half of the time). This is despite the billionaire philanthropist’s active efforts to reduce his wealth. The world-famous Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has a mind-boggling endowment of $50.7 billion for its philanthropy and is working to fight malaria and provide clean water to underprivileged communities.

    Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, also known as the “Wizard of Omaha,” has ranked consistently on the top 10 list of billionaires and also has formally pledged to give away at least half of his wealth. He’s famously frugal as well, rarely spending more than about three dollars on breakfast, and considers his wealth to be at least partially attributed to luck.

    “In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious,” Warren Buffett wrote in his pledge.

    One might argue that this kind of philanthropy from the world’s wealthiest is at least somewhat inspired by self-interest rather than pure altruism, given wealth’s complicated history in America. Nevertheless, despite Gates and Buffett giving away massive amounts of money, they still both rank second and third on the Forbes list of richest people in the world and have consistently ranked well for the past 30 years.

    Before Buffett, Bezos, and Gates, the Forbes richest people list looked quite different, though. It was less white, for one.

    The World’s Richest People in 1987

    1. Yoshiaki Tsutsumi — $20 billion
    2. Taikichiro Mori — $15 billion
    3. Shigeru Kobayashi — $7.5 billion
    4. Haruhiko Yoshimoto — $7 billion
    5. Salim Ahmed bin Mahfouz — $6.2 billion
    6. Hans and Gad Rausing — $6 billion
    7. Paul Reichmann and Brothers — $6 billion
    8. Yohachiro Iwaski — $5.6 billion
    9. Kenneth Thomson — $5.4 billion
    10. Keizo Saji — $4 billion

    The 1987 original Forbes World Billionaires List featured names you might not even recognize: Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, for instance, was the world’s richest man in that year. The hotel, train, and real estate mogul was worth $20 billion in 1987 but was subsequently the subject of lawsuits and accusations of fraud. He’s since been removed from the Forbes list entirely. Examining our list of the richest person in the world by year, one can see how the Lost Decade, a period of economic collapse in the early 1990s, had a huge impact on Japan’s wealthiest.

    The list has gotten whiter, and it’s also stayed male. As of now, no self-made female billionaire has made more than $10 billion. That being said, big earners like Oprah Winfrey and Diane Hendricks working their way up the list has been a good thing. Who knows? Maybe we’ll have a female billionaire on the top 10 list in the future.

    Our retrospective of the Forbes list shows us both how easy it is to lose money and how hard it is!


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