Two of the year’s other biggest gainers were Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg of the U.S. Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, added $13.7 billion to his net worth after the company soared 28 percent as the dozens of operating businesses the 84-year-old chairman bought during the past five decades churned out record profit.
Buffett passed Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim on Dec. 5 to become the world’s second-richest person. Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, was up $9.1 billion during the year. The 59-year-old remains the world’s richest person, with an $87.6 billion fortune.
Zuckerberg, the hoodie-wearing chief executive of the world’s largest social networking company, gained $10.6 billion as the business rose to a record on Dec. 22.
This year, Facebook made headway in mobile, a business that has flourished as mobile advertising increased and marketing initiatives expanded with applications and video. Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion also has been paying off: A Citigroup analyst said on Dec. 19 that the photo-sharing app is worth $35 billion.
Zuckerberg’s company faced a challenge in Russia, where the blocking of a Facebook page promoting a Russian opposition rally highlighted the challenges the social network faces as Putin cracks down on the Internet amid a looming economic downturn. The European Union and U.S. limited Russian companies’ access to financing to punish Putin after he annexed Crimea in March. Russia’s troubles have been worsened by the corresponding plunge in the price of oil, a bedrock of the country’s economy.
Nobody was hit harder than Vladimir Evtushenkov. Once Russia’s 14th-richest person, the 66-year-old lost 80 percent of his wealth, dropping him from the Bloomberg ranking. He was sentenced to house arrest by a Moscow court in September after a money-laundering investigation connected to the $2.5 billion purchase of shares in oil producer OAO Bashneft.
The court also ruled in favor of nationalizing his stake in Bashneft, which he controlled through publicly traded AFK Sistema. Evtushenkov’s fortune has fallen $8.1 billion, the most of any Russian this year.
Leonid Mikhelson has been the biggest loser in dollar terms among those remaining in the country’s 20 richest, dropping $7.8 billion since the start of the year. The 59-year-old is the chief executive of OAO Novatek, Russia’s second-largest natural gas producer, which fell 44 percent in value during the year. He has a $10.1 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg ranking.
Viktor Vekselberg surpassed Alisher Usmanov as Russia’s richest person after Usmanov’s MegaFon OAO lost almost half its value since June. Vekselberg is worth $14.1 billion, and Usmanov fell 32 percent to $13.8 billion.
Russian billionaires were not the only ones to suffer losses. Sheldon Adelson, the gambling mogul who controls Las Vegas Sands Corp., the world’s largest casino company, fell $8.7 billion as the Las Vegas-based company dropped 25 percent.
Adelson’s decline was followed by Jeffrey Bezos, the chairman of Amazon.com. The 50-year-old had $7.2 billion trimmed from his fortune as the company lost ground in the cloud computing market to crosstown competitor Microsoft.
Bezos, whose Blue Origin LLC space company won a contract in November to deploy rockets from NASA launchpads in Florida, is ranked 21st in the world with a $28.7 billion fortune. Blue Origin will develop a space vehicle that isn’t scheduled to be ready until after 2020.
Elon Musk’s space exploration company is close to winning the certification it needs to begin deploying satellites for the U.S. military, according to an Air Force official.
A contract win by Hawthorne-based SpaceX would be the first since the Pentagon opened the program in late 2012 to as many as 14 competitive missions.
Musk added $2.9 billion to his net worth, most of which was the result of a 50 percent gain by Tesla Motors Inc., the world’s largest electric car manufacturer.
A surge in real estate and corporate valuations elevated the fortunes of at least five Blackstone Group LP billionaires. Co-founder and chairman Stephen Schwarzman added $926 million as the company rose 7.6 percent. The performance, along with surging art values, made James Tomilson Hill, Blackstone’s vice chairman who runs the company’s $64 billion hedge fund business, a billionaire. Jonathan Gray, who runs the company’s real estate division, is worth $1.5 billion.
Real estate is seen as one way the wealthy could make further gains in 2015.
“The fact that interest rates are going to remain low, there might be some opportunities, especially with residential real estate in Europe,” Efrat Peled, the chairman of Arison Investments, said by phone from her office in Tel Aviv, Israel.