It was to be expected.
Jeff Bezos has lost the title of second richest man in the world behind Elon Musk, electric-vehicle leader Tesla’s (TSLA) chief executive.
The founder and executive chairman of tech and online-retail giant Amazon (AMZN) dropped to No. 3, on Sept. 16 at around 10:38 a.m in New York, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
At that time, Bezos had a fortune estimated at $145.8 billion compared with $146.9 billion for the Indian tycoon Gautam Adani.
The day started with Adani at No. 3 and Bezos at No. 2.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, just $1 billion had separated Bezos from Gautam Adani, the Indian billionaire and chairman of Adani Group, an industrial conglomerate.
Bezos’ fortune was then valued at $150 billion in this ranking, while Adani’s was estimated at $149 billion.
Since the immense fortune of the two men rests mainly in the shares each holds in his respective company, the safe bet is that the advantage is with Adani.
The current volatility in the markets — due to fears about the health of the economy in the face of an aggressive rate hike by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation — is particularly weighing on technology groups like Amazon.
Amazon stock is down around 16% since January. This translates into a drop in Bezos’s fortune, which has shrunk by $42.8 billion this year.
Adani’s Meteoric Rise
Conversely, Adani is experiencing a meteoric rise. His fortune has increased by $72.4 billion since January.
His countryman, Mukesh Ambani, ranked eighth richest person in the world with an estimated fortune of $91 billion, is the other top 10 billionaire to have seen his fortune increase (+$1.02 billion) this year. Ambani is chairman and managing director of the Reliance Industries conglomerate.
At the beginning of the year, Adani became the richest person in Asia, ahead of Ambani.
The rest of the top 10 is in the red.
The fortune of Musk, the richest man in the world, has shrunk by $6.07 billion to $264 billion.
Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, (LVMUY) lost $39.4 billion to $139 billion.
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Bill Gates’s fortune is down $25.3 billion to $113 billion.
Alphabet (GOOGL) Co-Founder Larry Page has saw his fortune drop by $33.5 billion to $94.9 billion. Sergey Brin, the other co-founder of Alphabet, lost $32.7 billion to $90.8 billion.
Larry Ellison (ORCL) saw his fortune drop $16.8 billion to $90.3 billion.
Since becoming the third richest man in the world in August, Adani has seen his fortune increase by $12 billion, while Bezos’s has lost $3 billion.
The rise of Adani began during the covid-19 pandemic. In March 2020, his net wealth was valued over $6 billion. Since then, his fortune has increased by a factor of almost 25.
Given that increase, it’s also not out of the question that by year’s end, Adani could overtake Musk as the richest person.
A Conglomerate Built with Debt
Adani, 60, is not well-known in the West.
Born in 1962 in Ahmedabad in western India, Adani comes from a modest family of seven children whose father was a small textile merchant.
A self-made executive, Adani started working at age 16 at the diamond dealer Mahendra Brothers, where he was responsible for sorting precious stones.
In 1988 he founded a commodity trading firm that would become the Adani conglomerate.
He has grown the group by acquiring companies with debt. Adani group has become the most valuable company in India. The company holds mines, ports and power plants; it owns a dozen commercial ports and is present in coal, electricity and renewable energy. It also has diversified into airports, data centers and defense.
Adani group also recently entered the cement sector by buying assets of cement manufacturer Holcim (HCMLY) in India and is also looking to set up an aluminum factory.
Adani Enterprises is the flagship of his empire. In 2021, its turnover was $5.3 billion.
On Aug. 23, the CreditSights subsidiary of Fitch Ratings warned that the conglomerate was “deeply overleveraged” and may “in the worst-case scenario” spiral into a debt trap.
But two weeks later the credit-rating firm said it discovered that it had made “calculation errors” in two of Adani Group’s companies. It corrected its report and removed the words “deeply overleveraged.”
“CreditSights’ views have not changed from its original report and we still maintain that the group’s leverage is elevated,” CreditSights concluded.