Forget ‘who wants to be a millionaire?’ If you want to be up among the richest people in the world, it’s going to take billions.
Just ask Elon Musk, who yesterday leapfrogged Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to become the richest man on the planet.
On Wednesday, the 49-year-old South Africa-born engineer’s fortune stood at $181 billion (£133 billion) and Bezos’s at $184 billion (£136 billion).
But thanks to a surge in the share price of his electric car company Tesla, his fortune — which goes up by tens of millions every day — had risen yesterday to $188.5 billion (£139 billion).
Bezos, 56, had held the top spot since October 2017, when he overtook Microsoft founder Bill Gates, 65, who has a net worth of $119.3 billion (£88 billion).
The trio, who all made their billions from technology, form a very exclusive club of tycoons to have held the title of the world’s richest man, jostling for first, second and third position as stock prices and fortunes have wavered.
And from a love of private jets and fancy houses, through to costly divorces, that’s not all these moneybags have in common.
But while Musk may currently be the richest, who is the flashest? Who still drives a seven-year-old Honda, who can’t boast of an art collection, and who has sworn off space travel? CLAUDIA CONNELL invites you little people to take a look at the richest men in the world …
Elon Musk (left) has officially become the world’s richest person after a surge in Tesla shares increased his net worth to a whopping $188.5billion, dethroning Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (right)
Luxury jets and gas-guzzling cars
Musk: He is careful to be seen driving his own electric vehicles, with an £80,000 Model S Tesla his car of choice. He was seen recently driving the prototype of his new £40,000 Cybertruck. The man who wants people to drive greener cars also keeps a gas guzzling 1967 Jaguar E-Type worth £60,000 and owns two private jets — a Gulfstream G550, which costs £45 million and a £48 million Gulfstream G650.
Bezos: The Amazon boss is no petrolhead. The last time he was asked about his car, he revealed he drove a seven-year-old Honda Accord. He scores some billionaire points with his £48 million private jet, an eight-seater Gulfstream G650ER, and the £3.5 million hanger he bought to keep it in.
Gates: The climate-change activist recently bought a £116,000 Porsche Taycan Turbo (but at least it’s electric). He also has a £100,000 Ferrari 348 and a £60,000 Jaguar XJ6. He describes his jet — a £29 million, 19-seater Bombardier BD-700 — as his ‘guilty pleasure’.
All three men own private jets and Elon Musk owns two. Microsoft founder Bill Gates describes his jet – a £29 million, 19-seater Bombardier BD-700 (pictured) — as his ‘guilty pleasure’
Musk is obsessed with ‘colonising’ Mars and founded his SpaceX company in 2002. Pictured: The SpaceX Falcon Heavy launches from the Kennedy Space Centre, in February 2018
Firing up the space race
Musk: Like a comic book villain, he is obsessed with ‘colonising’ Mars. He founded his SpaceX company in 2002 and last year it became the first private company to send humans into orbit when it flew two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. He says that by 2050 he will have a city of one million people on the Red Planet, who’d all have paid around £375,000 to relocate.
Bezos: Twenty years ago he founded Blue Origin, a company that aims to make space travel available to all (as long as you’re filthy rich). He envisages a future where people will live in floating space colonies with ecosystems similar to Earth.
Gates: He has stated that he’s not ‘in the least bit interested’ in joining the billionaire space race, recently calling Musk’s Mars colonisation plan ‘delusional’. However, he has invested £700 million in a company called EarthNow, which aims to cover Earth in video surveillance via hundreds of low-earth orbit satellites.
Elon Musk with his first wife Justine whom he divorced in 2008 after eight years of marriage. Justine, mother of his five sons, accused him of under-valuing his assets in bitter divorce battle
Love, marriage and costly divorces
Musk: He met first wife, author Justine, when they were students. They married in 2000 and split after eight years. During a bitter divorce, Justine, mother of his five sons, accused him of under-valuing his assets.
The judge rejected her claims and Musk gave her a £9 million settlement. In 2010, he married British actress Talulah Riley, now 35, but divorced on friendly terms two years later. In 2013, they remarried — only to divorce again in 2016, with the total settlement estimated to be £20 million.
Bezos: When you’re divorcing the world’s richest man, you can expect a handsome payout. In 2019, he agreed to a £28 billion settlement after splitting with MacKenzie Scott, his wife of 26 years and mother to his four children.
She is now a successful novelist who has kept a four per cent share in Amazon worth £26 billion.
Gates: No divorce bills for Bill; he has been happily married to Melinda for 26 years.
Scandals, tweets and conspiracies
Musk: In 2018, he tweeted that he was thinking of taking Tesla private at a cost of $420 (£310) per share — way more than its trading value — and had secured the funding to do so. It led to a £30 million fine from trading body the Security and Exchanges Commission.
When 12 boys were trapped in a cave in Thailand, Musk sent a submarine for the rescue operation. It was never used, and when British diver Vernon Unsworth accused him of being an attention-seeker, Musk called him ‘pedo guy’ on Twitter. Unsworth sued for defamation but lost.
Bezos: Shortly after his separation from MacKenzie, the National Enquirer published intimate texts between him and new girlfriend Lauren Sanchez, which, they claimed, proved they had been conducting an affair for many months.
Bezos then accused the U.S. tabloid of blackmailing him with the threat of publishing more texts and nude photos if he didn’t call off an investigation into who leaked the texts. The Enquirer responded by saying Lauren’s brother Michael Sanchez had supplied the information in return for £150,000.
In addition, Amazon — worth nearly £2 trillion — has been accused of swerving £75 billion of global taxes over the past decade.
Gates: Did you know Bill Gates is responsible for Covid-19? He manufactured the virus in order to make a fortune from a vaccine.
None of this is true, of course — just bonkers conspiracy theories that all stem from a 2010 talk he gave where he predicted that a virus could wipe out millions.
While Bill Gates has been happily married to wife Melinda (right) for 26 years, Bezos agreed to a £28bn settlement after splitting with MacKenzie Scott (left) , wife and mother to his children
Giving back or not helping enough
Musk: It’s hard to imagine a ‘cash poor’ billionaire, but Elon is. Most of his wealth is tied up in his Telsa and SpaceX shares. However, he has given £70 million to charity so far and signed the Giving Pledge, set up by Bill and Melinda Gates, to encourage the super-rich to offload half of their wealth.
Bezos: He has been criticised for not giving generously enough despite establishing his own charitable foundation, the Day One Fund, two years ago. It supports homeless families and provides early years education in low income areas, with a £1.5 billion donation. However, Forbes recently stated he donates less than one per cent of his fortune.
He hasn’t signed the Giving Pledge. However, last year, he pledged £7.5 billion to help fight climate change.
Gates: To date he has given £37 billion to good causes via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The couple have vowed to leave only a small amount of their fortune to their children, with the rest going to charity.
One of Elon Musk’s six Bel-Air homes which he sold in April for $29 million and which served as his main residence – $12m more than he paid for it in 2012
More houses than in Monopoly
Musk: He announced last year that he intends to sell all his physical possessions, including his homes (worth a total of £100 million). Last summer, a buyer paid £22 million for his seven-bedroom mansion in LA’s exclusive Bel Air.
He is now offering his other four Bel Air houses as part of a bundle at the bargain price of £47 million. In 2019, he sold another home in Brentwood, LA, for a more modest £2.87 million.
Bezos: Last year, he bought a £123 million estate in Beverly Hills that set a record for house sales in California. The main house (there are three on the ten-acre compound) is 13,000 square feet with eight bedrooms and nine bathrooms. And it’s not even his main home — that’s a sprawling estate in Medina, Washington State, worth £43 million.
Throw in two houses in LA, a £12 million converted museum in Washington DC, numerous apartments in New York and a 330,000-acre ranch in Texas and it adds up to an estimated £200 million property portfolio.
Gates: His main home is a huge estate, also in Medina, nicknamed Xanadu 2.0 (after the fictional mansion in Citizen Kane). The main mansion offers 66,000 square feet of space and comes with a pool that plays underwater music.
The estate was recently valued at £94 million. And he has bought a San Diego beachfront mansion for £32 million.
There are two further properties in Florida, an equestrian centre in California and a ski lodge in Montana, adding up to £170 million worth of homes.
James Bond Toys: Elon Musk paid £620,000 for this Lotus Esprit submarine car used in Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me which could be driven on land and also go underwater
James Bond toys
Musk: Seven years ago he paid £620,000 for the Lotus Esprit submarine car used in the Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me, which could be driven on land and also go underwater. ‘I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform,’ he said at the time.
Bezos: He had the fortune, the plane, the property portfolio — all that was missing was a giant clock inside a hollowed out mountain. So Bezos spent £36 million on a 500ft thermal-powered clock, housed in a mountain in West Texas that will tell the time for the next 10,000 years. They do sell watches on Amazon, Jeff.
Gates: In 2013, it was rumoured he was the new owner of the 314-acre Caribbean island Grand Bogue Caye off the coast of Belize that was sold to an undisclosed buyer for £18 million. But while he did tour the island, he is not thought to have put in an offer.
Elon Musk with girlfriend of two years Canadian musician Claire Boucher, stage name Grimes
For richer…and richer
Musk: His girlfriend of two years is Canadian musician Claire Boucher, who is 17 years his junior. She performs under the name of Grimes — and in May last year gave birth to a boy named X-AE-A-XII, or X for short.
Bezos: He was accused of cheating on his (now ex) wife MacKenzie with current girlfriend Lauren Sanchez, 51. Lauren was married to movie agent Patrick Whitesell and the pair were friends with Bezos and MacKenzie. After 18 months of dating, Lauren (right with Bezos) has been spotted with what looks like a knuckle-duster of an engagement ring.
Gates: Bill has been devoted to wife Melinda, 56, for nearly 30 years. The couple met when she started working for Microsoft as a product manager in 1987. They have three grown-up children.
The art of spending it
Musk: He sent works by street artist Tristan Eaton into space on his rocket launch this year, but otherwise Elon isn’t much of an art buff.
Bezos: Only started investing in art this year, when he was reported to have paid £39 million at Christie’s for Hurting The Word Radio #2 by U.S. artist Ed Ruscha. He’s also thought to have bought Vignette 19 by Kerry James Marshall for £13 million.
Gates: Owner of a £100 million art collection, the most valuable work of which is Leonardo Da Vinci’s Codex Leicester (right), a collection of scientific writings which he paid £23 million for in 1994 and is now worth twice that.
His collection also includes Lost On The Great Banks by American artist Winslow Homer, which he purchased for £26 milion.