For most people, the COVID-19 crisis brought economic uncertainty. At the same time, the net worth of many of the super-wealthy has skyrocketed, driven by pandemic-boosted profit. The richest CEOs have only grown richer.
The average household wealth, meanwhile, decreased by an average of 5.6% during the first quarter of 2020, the largest drop since the 1950s. At one time, almost 10% of US citizens were out of work.
The economic outlook has improved since then, with unemployment down to 3.6% again. However, with the current geopolitical situation, uncertainty has put a damper on the stock markets.
Elon Musk, however, has multiplied his fortune since the start of the virus outbreak. He is now almost set to crack the $300 billion barrier, after Jeff Bezos became the first person to break over $200 billion in 2020. According to an analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies, the 12 richest Americans taken together are now worth more than $1 trillion.
To keep track of whose wealth has soared highest, and who is currently heading the list of the super-rich, here are the 15 richest CEOs of the United States as of April 2022.
NB: This list only includes current CEOs. Retired CEOs, like Bill Gates, are not included – nor are executive chairpersons, such as Jeff Bezos at Amazon.
#1 – Elon Musk (Tesla and SpaceX)
Since the start of the pandemic, Elon Musk’s personal fortune has skyrocketed. Starting with $27 billion in early 2020, he now holds over 10 times that: $293 billion. After becoming the second person to cross the $200 billion mark in 2021, he now seems on track to pass 300 billion soon.
Musk (50) co-founded the electronic payment-provider PayPal and aerospace company SpaceX. He is the current CEO and major shareholder of electric car manufacturer Tesla.
In early 2022, he also became Twitter’s single largest stockholder – shelling out nearly $3 billion for close to 10% of its stock. Musk’s own tweets are subject to approval by the SEC, following a history of very real stock swings following his idle online speculations.
After Tesla’s addition to the S&P 500, Musk’s net worth rose by $35 billion in the first week of January 2021 alone. After a time of going head to head with Jeff Bezos, he finally passed the then-Amazon CEO last year.
#2 – Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway)
Warren Buffett (91) is the long-time CEO of the multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway. Quickly recovering from an multi-billion drop in his personal wealth in early 2020, he has since zoomed to second place on this list. His net worth is now just over of $125 billion – far below Musk’s, but he remains well ahead of Mark Zuckerberg.
Buffett is widely known as an investing icon. Nicknamed ‘The Oracle of Omaha’, after his hometown in Nebraska, he has acquired a large following of aspiring investors. Buffett started investing in the stock market in 1942, at only 11 years old.
From childhood hustles like selling chewing gum and delivering newspapers to graduating from Columbia Business School, Buffett consistently pursued wealth. After first investing in Berkshire Hathaway – then a New England textile manufacturer – in 1962, he became chairman in 1965. He holds the role to this day, with Berkshire now established as a holding company for a multitude of businesses.
#3 – Mark Zuckerberg (Meta / Facebook)
The second-youngest CEO on this list at 37, Mark Zuckerberg, is co-founder and controlling shareholder of Meta Platforms, which rebranded from Facebook last year. After crossing the $100 billion mark in August 2020 and spiking to nearly $110 billion in 2021, continued controversy has taken its toll on his wealth. He is now worth $83 billion, roughly back at the $78 billion he started with at the beginning of 2020.
Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004 in his college dorm at Harvard, together with his roommates. Three years later, he became the youngest self-made billionaire at 23. By the time Facebook went public in 2012, the social network could boast more than a billion users globally.
In the midst of heavy, continued controversy around Facebook, the company renamed itself Meta Platforms in 2021. The new name also reflects a focus on the metaverse as the future nexus of online life, and the fact that the corporation also runs platforms other than Facebook, notably WhatsApp and Instagram.
#4 – Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg L.P.)
Michael Bloomberg (80) is one of America’s richest CEOs – and one of the most visible, owing to his 12-year run as New York mayor. Additionally, his wealth derives from a media powerhouse, Bloomberg. He founded it in 1981 after getting sacked by an investment bank when it was acquired.
Bloomberg designed a computerized system to relay real-time stock market data, with the Merril Lynch firm as first exclusive customer and partner. This system expanded to providing financial analyses. Growing from there, the company added a business news service, and now runs several online, print and TV media outlets
Fun fact: Despite his immense wealth, you won’t find Michael Bloomberg on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The reason is that the media company has a policy of not covering its founder.
Forbes puts his current net worth at $82 billion. This puts him in tight pursuit of Zuckerberg, and means that he has almost doubled his fortune from well below $50 billion in early 2020.
Bloomberg is known for his political activities. For his term as mayor, he resigned from his post as CEO. He also was one of the primary candidates for the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
#5 – Jim Walton (Arvest Bank)
Heir to the Walmart fortune, and CEO of Arvest Bank Group, Jim Walton (72) can boast a net worth of $70 billion, up from $64 billion from the 2021 edition of this list.
Unlike most other entries, Walton owes the largest part of his wealth not to his activities as a CEO but to his family fortune. He is one of the four Walton siblings, heirs to the Walmart corporation, and served as a Walmart board member for over ten years until 2016.
The Arvest Bank Group is one of the largest and oldest banks in Arkansas and Oklahoma. It started out as a single bank in Bentonville, Ark., the same town that hosts Walmart’s headquarters. The Walton family bought the bank in 1961 and quickly began expanding it.
His sister Alice Walton and brother Rob Walton are similarly wealthy, at close to $70 billion themselves each. They’re not on our list of the richest CEOs, though, because they don’t hold any such position.
#6 – Charles Koch (Koch Industries)
With a fortune of $63 billion (jumping from $46.4 billion in 2021), Charles Koch (86) currently ranks as the 20th-richest person alive. Since 1967, he has served as chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company of the U.S. by revenue.
Koch Industries’ ventures are extremely diverse and range from oil refineries to ranching. Perhaps its best known consumer products are Lycra fiber and the ubiquitous disposable Dixie cup.
Koch owns a 42% share in the company founded by his father in 1940. He is a noted liberal and patron of charities and cultural institutions. He is also fiercely opposed to governmental environmental regulation, instead suggesting climate change could best be combated technology developed by companies.
#7 – Michael Dell (Dell Technologies)
Founder, chairman, and CEO of Dell Technologies, Michael Dell (57) can boast a private fortune of $54.6 billion. Dell is another self-made businessman on this list. When he was a freshman at the University of Texas, he started a business selling upgrade kits for PCs from his dorm room.
In 1984, he founded his own company, Dell. Only eight years later, at 27, he became the youngest-ever CEO of a Fortune 500 company. In 2016, Dell merged with EMC, an American computer store giant.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dell has seen his net worth more than double. Back in early 2020, his fortune was worth “only” $22 billion. Dell Technologies provided many of the laptops and other equipment needed as a result of remote work and remote learning policies, in particular, but was also boosted by the general uptick in electronic equipment sales.
#8 – Stephen Schwarzman (Blackstone Group)
The CEO of The Blackstone Group, a global private equity firm, Stephen Schwarzman (75) is worth $38 billion – meaning his wealth has grown by over $10 billion over the last year alone. His company manages more than $554 billion in assets worldwide.
With business interests ranging from debt financing and hedge fund management to real estate acquisitions, Schwarzman is one of Wall Street’s most influential players.
Schwarzman first went into business at 14 with a lawn mowing service – with himself doing customer acquisition while his younger twin brothers took care of the lawns. After a lengthy stint with Lehman Brothers, his boss and he founded Blackstone in 1985.
Schwarzman is also noted for his political support activities, having donated to a number of Republican presidential candidates. For a time, he chaired the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum, founded in 2017, which advised former U.S. president Trump.
#9 – Kenneth Griffin (Citadel)
Kenneth Griffin (52) makes the list of the richest CEOs as the head of the investment firm Citadel, and with a net worth of $28 billion. Citadel manages more than $34 billion in assets. Adding around $12 billion over the last year, he has jumped 5 full places in this list.
Griffin first began trading from his dorm room at Harvard. In 1990, he founded Citadel Securities. Thirty years later, Citadel manages one in five stock trades in the US, and is one of Wall Street’s central market-making firms.
#10 – Jen-Hsun Huang (NVIDIA)
Jen-Hsun “Jensen Huang”, 59 and currently worth $25 billion, founded computer graphics company NVIDIA in 1993 together with engineers from AMD and Sun. Today, Nvidia-designed hardware is intensely sought after by gamers, but perhaps even more so by crypto-miners.
He makes PakWired’s list of the 15 richest U.S. CEOs for the first time this year. Huang himself is Taiwanese-born, but he emigrated to the U.S. with his family at the age of 9. He holds a degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
#11 Sam Bankman-Fried (FTX, Alameda Research)
A newcomer and the youngest CEO on this list, Sam Bankman-Fried is 30 and worth around $24 billion. He’s principally known as the richest person in crypto. After gaining experience at trading firm Jane Street, he founded crypto trading firm Alameda Research in 2017 and crypto exchange FTX in 2019.
Bankman Fried is a noted adherent of effective altruism and has pledged to give away most of his wealth until the end of his life – he has already donated half his wealth once after leaving Jane Street.
#12 – Abigail Johnson (Fidelity Investments)
The only woman on this list, Abigail Johnson (60) is CEO of Fidelity Investments, a premier financial services corporation in the U.S. Her private fortune amounts to around $23 billion, growing quickly from $10 billion in 2020 and $15 billion in early 2021.
Johnson has been Fidelity’s CEO since 2014, when she took over from her father. The company was founded in 1946 by Edward Johnson II, her grandfather.
Abigail Johnson became involved in the family business early on. She worked at the company throughout college and became a full-time analyst after receiving her MBA from Harvard. Under her leadership, Fidelity has notably embraced cryptocurrencies.
#13 – Steven Cohen (Point72)
Today, Steve Cohen (65) is CEO of the hedge fund Point72 Asset Management. A large share of the estimated $16 billion the company manages is his own.
Cohen is better known for his leading role in SAC Capital Advisors, formerly a major hedge fund. It was closed in 2013 after insider trading accusations.
His own net worth is curently around $17.3 billion. It has been growing steadily over the last years, and apparently pandemic has had no real effect on it. In September 2020, he shelled out over $2 billion to acquire the New York Mets.
#14 – Robert Pera (Ubiquiti)
Robert Pera (44) founded wireless technology company Ubiquiti Networks in 2005 after a stint in Apple’s wireless department. Besides serving as CEO, he owns nearly 75% of the stock-listed corporation.
Currently, his net worth clocks in at $17.1 billion. Owing to the massive demand on network equipment during the pandemic, he has more than doubled his wealth during its course, starting out at around $7 billion in early 2020.
#15 Jay Chaudhry (Zscaler)
Jay Chaudhry (62) is the founder and CEO of Zscaler, a major cloud cybersecurity provider. Born in an Indian village without running water, he is now the 135th-richest person in the world, with his net worth estimated at $14.2 billion.
Chaudhry founded Zscaler – his 5th cybersecurity startup – in 2008. He and his family continue to hold 42% of its stock after a 2018 IPO. Zscaler’s value – like several other companies owned by billionaires on this list – grew massively due to the pandemic-driven shift to remote work and generally more online life.
Sheldon Adelson (Las Vegas Sands)
Sheldon Adelson was the 9th richest CEO on this list until his death last year. His wealth – around $30 billion – has passed on to his wife Miriam.
Like Buffett, he started his business career young. At age 12, he borrowed $200 from his uncle to buy a newspaper selling license. It was the first of a long line of entrepreneurial ventures.
Adelson was best known as the CEO and chairman of the Las Vegas Sands casinos. The foundations for it were laid when Adelson bought the prominent Sands Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip in 1989.
The stories of America’s richest CEOs vary wildly. Some are heirs to family empires who have taken their reins. On the other extreme, there are businessmen who started from scratch with nothing but an idea.
What they do have in common, though, is that their fortunes have so far weathered the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, a recent analysis found that the ten richest billionaires alone doubled their wealth in the two years of the pandemic, cashing in over $800 billon – or about $1.3 billion every day.
This goes to show that tremendous wealth is more than just a financial buffer in a crisis. By making it among the 15 richest CEOs of the U.S., the people on this list have set themselves up to actively benefit from volatile situations. Alone among the billionaire business magnates in this year’s round-up, only Mark Zuckerberg has actually lost part of his wealth.