Last week was an expensive one for most investors, even for billionaires.
The combined fortunes of the world’s 500 richest people fell by $444 billion as the coronavirus continued to spread — and spread fear — rattling equity markets worldwide.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled more than 12%, the biggest five-day slide since the depths of the 2008 financial crisis, in a rout that vaporized more than $6 trillion from global stocks.
The drubbing more than erased the $78 billion in gains that the 500 wealthiest people had amassed since the start of the year through last week, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The world’s three richest people — Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and LVMH Chairman Bernard Arnault — incurred the biggest losses, with their combined wealth dropping about $30 billion.
Elon Musk, the world’s 25th-richest person, rang up the fourth-largest weekly loss — $9 billion — as shares of his Tesla Inc. slid after a steep climb to start the year. He’s still up $8.8 billion in 2020 and has a net worth of $36.3 billion.
About 80% of billionaires on Bloomberg’s wealth ranking are now in the red this year, including those whose businesses have been swept up in the global drama. Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison lost $1 billion this week as the world’s largest cruise-line operator held tourists aboard one of its ships in Japan, where at least five passengers have died.
Health officials are struggling to contain the virus, which can cause a potentially deadly pneumonia-like illness in a minority of patients and spread from others who look healthy. The World Health Organization has thus far refrained from declaring it a pandemic.