Billionaires Who Made Headlines in 2019

One of the most anticipated lists put out by Forbes every year is the Billionaires list. Some people like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates are household names on this list but we also see a slew of new names each year. This year, Kylie Jenner was named the youngest self-made billionaire which stirred up a lot of controversies.

However, as new people make the list, it also means that others lose their billionaire status as well. In 2019, the founders of Forever 21 lost their billionaire status after the famous fast-fashion company went bankrupt. This article explores the billionaires who made headlines this year.

Jeff Bezos

jeff bezos
Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED25
Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED25

One billionaire who has consistently held his position at number one on the list is Jeff Bezos. He founded the e-commerce giant, Amazon, out of a garage in Seattle. The company started out as a bookseller and eventually branched out into the sale of other products. Today, the company has its own streaming service and the Amazon Echo which uses artificial intelligence.

Bezos has a net worth of 131B and has a 16 percent stake in Amazon. He filed for divorce from his long-time partner, Mackenzie Bezos and gave her a 4 percent stake in Amazon. In addition to Amazon, Bezos also owns The Washington Post and Blue Origin, an aerospace company.

Bill Gates

bill gates
Photo by Chesnot via Getty Images
Photo by Chesnot via Getty Images

Another billionaire who is a household name on the billionaires’ list is Bill Gates. He held the number one position for many years but was beat out by Jeff Bezos a couple of years ago. He is the founder of Microsoft and also founded one of the largest private charitable organizations in the world, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Although Gates founded Microsoft, he only owns a 1 percent stake in the company. He sold or gave away a majority of the shares in the company, although he is still a board member. Bill Gates has a net worth of $96.5 billion and has donated $35.8 billion through his foundation.

Kylie Jenner

kylie jenner
Photo by Michael Stewart/WireImage via Getty Images
Photo by Michael Stewart/WireImage via Getty Images

Forbes billionaires cover this year featured a 21-year-old Kylie Jenner with the caption ‘Youngest Self-Made Billionaire.’ This ruffled a lot of feathers as people argued that her family was wealthy, making the word self-made an inaccurate assumption. Nevertheless, Kylie Jenner has built a beauty empire with her lip kits.

The increase in Kylie Jenner’s net worth is fueled in part by her partnership with Ulta which increased revenue to $360 million. Kylie Cosmetics is said to be worth at least 900 million, making Jenner a billionaire as she is the sole owner of the company. She earned this status before Mark Zuckerberg, who was 23 when he became a billionaire.

Mark Zuckerberg

mark zuckerberg
Photo by Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images
Photo by Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg is the founder of the popular social networking site, Facebook. While the company itself is not as popular as it once was, Facebook has retained its net worth through the acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp. Zuckerberg’s current net worth is $62.3B.

Zuckerberg was under fire this year when the social networking site was accused of spreading fake news and he pledged to tackle the social issues surrounding Facebook. Zuckerberg started the company out of his dorm room at Harvard when he was just 19. The company went public in 2012 and he still owns 15 percent of the stock.

Adam Neumann

Adam Neumann
Photo by Michael Kovac via Getty Images for WeWork
Photo by Michael Kovac via Getty Images for WeWork

If you were to describe the modern-day workplace, a WeWork office would be your answer. The company solved the issue of finding a workspace for small companies and freelancers by offering fully furnished offices that could be rented out. However, in 2019, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the company’s CEO, Adam Neumann.

The companies valuation was slashed from $47 billion and faced bankruptcy charges in just six weeks. This led to a decline in Neumann’s net worth as he had an 18 percent stake in the company. Analysts say that the company is worth $2.8 billion at the most. However, WeWork survived thanks to a bailout by SoftBank.

Eric Yuan

Eric Yuan
Photo by Kena Betancur via Getty Images
Photo by Kena Betancur via Getty Images

Eric Yuan is the founder of Zoom, the video conferencing software company. He founded the company in 2011 and prior to this, he was a VP of Engineering for Cisco. The CEO came to the U.S in 1997 after getting his visa rejected nine times before it was finally accepted.

Yuan came to the country without speaking any English and went on to build one of the biggest software companies in the country. He owns a 20.5 percent stake in the company and when Zoom issued an IPO this year, Eric Yuan earned a net worth of $3 billion.

Jay-Z

jay z
Photo by Stephen Lovekin via Getty Images
Photo by Stephen Lovekin via Getty Images

Jay-Z and Beyoncé are music’s power couple but 2019 was an exceptional year for Jay-Z who finally earned his billionaire status. The singer has made millions from sell-out tours and chart-topping hits but music is not the only way the rapper makes his fortune.

Jay-Z has a net worth of $1 billion as of June 2019 and this is fueled by his record label, a clothing line, his streaming service Tidal, and an alcohol brand. Jay-Z, who is a household name in the rap world made his debut on the billionaire’s list this year.

Stewart Butterfield

Stewart Butterfield
Photo by Drew Angerer via Getty Images
Photo by Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Stewart Butterfield is the founder of the app Slack which is a messaging app used by companies around the world. The CEO became a billionaire in June of 2019 after the company made its market debut. Butterfield has a total net worth of $1.6 billion.

While this company earned him his billionaire status, it wasn’t his first successful venture. Prior to Slack, Stewart Butterfield also founded the photo-sharing app, Flickr. The company was sold to Yahoo in 2013 for more than $20 million.

Safra Catz

Safra Catz
Photo by Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
Photo by Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

Safra Catz is a banker, tech executive and the current CEO of Oracle. She took over the reins after the departure of fellow billionaire Larry Ellison in 2014. This fueled her path to her billionaire status as Catz is now the highest-paid woman in the world with an annual salary of $135 million.

As of November 2019, Safra Katz has a net worth of $1.1 billion. She is known for her aggressive acquisition strategy and has spearheaded over 100 acquisitions at Oracle since 2005. She considers Larry Ellison one of her closest confidants.

Ryan Graves

ryan graves
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

Graves earned his billionaire status at 37-years-old from his stake in the ride-sharing company, Uber. He was the first employee hired by Uber after responding to a tweet by Uber’s founder, Travis Kalanick who was looking for help to launch his startup. His net worth as of March 2019 is $1.6 billion.

Graves served as the CEO of Uber for a brief period and prior to this was the SVP of Global Operations. However, he resigned from the board in 2017, just two months after Travis Kalanick was forced to step down. Graves has a 2 percent stake in Uber.

Adam Bowen and James Monsees

Adam Bowen and James Monsees
FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP via Getty Images
FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP via Getty Images

Adam Bowen and James Monsees are the founders of Juul, an electronic cigarette company. The founders of the company had a short-lived billionaire tenure when the valuation of the company was slashed by hedge fund Darsana Capital Partners by one-third after regulators started to pay more attention to the company’s finances.

Bowen and Monsees founded the company when they were on a smoke break at Stanford University. Juul was an affiliate of its parent company Ploom and later became its own entity in 2017. The founders each have a 1.5 percent stake in the company and net worths of $900 million.

Jin Sook and Do Won Chang

Jin Sook and Do Won Chang
Photo by George Rose via Getty Images
Photo by George Rose via Getty Images

Sook and Chang are the founders of the fast-fashion company, Forever 21. The pair had a combined net worth of $5.9 billion but this was reduced to just $1.6 billion when the company had to file for bankruptcy. Forever 21 was forced to shut down 350 stores globally.

The couple founded the company in 1984 when they migrated from South Korea three years before the company’s launch. The first store was only 900 square feet and sold clothes that the couple bought from wholesale dealers.

Michael O’Leary

Michael O'Leary
Photo by Andrew Burton via Getty Images
Photo by Andrew Burton via Getty Images

Michael O’Leary is the founder of the economy airline, Ryanair and has served as the CEO of the company since 1994. He was once noted for saying that Ryanair was the Walmart of airlines. However, O’Leary lost his billionaire status when the company suffered from a decline in profits.

They were also affected by Brexit, pilot strikes, and the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max. This affected O’Leary’s net worth which fell below a billion dollars. While he is no longer a member of the billionaire list, his current net worth remains unknown.

Barilla Pasta Heirs

Barilla Pasta Heirs
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca via Getty Images
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca via Getty Images

Barilla Pasta is known around the world for its high-quality pasta and pasta sauces. The company was founded by the Barilla family and is currently operated by its four heirs, siblings, Guido, Emmanuel, Luca, and Paolo Barilla.

The siblings have an 85 percent stake in the company and were said to be worth $1.5 billion each but as of 2019, they are no longer members of the billionaire list. Guido is the chairman at Barilla while his siblings Luca and Paolo are vice-chairmen.

Andrea Reimann

Andrea Reimann
Photo by Joe Raedle via Getty Images
Photo by Joe Raedle via Getty Images

Andrea Reimann is the 62-year-old heiress to the donut empire, Krispy Kreme. She recently moved from her home in Germany to New Hampshire. Reimann inherited a stake in the family’s business JAB Holdings which owns numerous consumer products in the U.S.

However, in 2003 she sold her stake in the company to other family members. JAB Holdings also owns Peet’s Coffee and Panera Bread. Her net worth as of June 2019 is $720 million. She is also an heir to the Reimann’s vast family fortune.

Katie Ronan and Kathy Fields

Katie Ronan and Kathy Fields
Photo by Cindy Ord via Getty Images for PROACTIV
Photo by Cindy Ord via Getty Images for PROACTIV

Ronan and Fields are the founders of Proactive, a range of skincare products that launched in 1995. The founders met when they were medical residents fresh out of medical school. The skincare line became incredibly popular for their acne treatment but they are known for their multi-level skincare lines as well.

In addition to Proactive, the duo earned a majority of their wealth from their skincare line Ronan + Fields that sold over $1.5 billion worth of cosmetics in 2017. Katie Ronan and Kathy Fields have a net worth of $1.5 billion as of 2019.

Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault
ERIC PIERMONT/AFP via Getty Images
ERIC PIERMONT/AFP via Getty Images

One billionaire who amassed a massive fortune in 2019 was Barnard Arnault, the chief executive of LVMH. In 2019, Arnault’s fortune increased by $31.4 billion. In March of this year, he jumped over Warren Buffet on the billionaires’ list and then Bill Gates to become the second richest person in the world after Jeff Bezos.

Bernard Arnault made most of his wealth in a 48 hour period when there was a massive increase in the share price of his conglomerate, LVMH. This also made him the richest person in the world for a brief period of time. Bernard Arnault’s total net worth is $102 billion.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk
Photo by Charley Gallay via Getty Images for E3/Entertainment Software Association
Photo by Charley Gallay via Getty Images for E3/Entertainment Software Association

Elon Musk is the CEO and Chairman of Tesla and has made significant contributions to the transport and space travel sectors with his companies Tesla and Space X. Both companies have been incredibly successful during their inception and have revolutionized technology as we know it.

Tesla was founded in 2003 and it was the first company to successfully bring electric cars to the mass market. Musk’s’ space company, Space X is said to have a valuation of more than $20 billion. Elon Musk has a net worth of $27.5 billion as of 2019.

Julia Flesher Koch

Julia Flesher Koch
Photo by Michael N. Todaro/FilmMagic via Getty Images
Photo by Michael N. Todaro/FilmMagic via Getty Images

Julia Flesher Koch is the wife of the late David Koch who was an American businessman and philanthropist. Flesher made the billionaires list after the death of her husband when she inherited a stake in the Koch family business. Her stake in the company earned her a net worth of $61.7 billion making her the second richest woman in the world.

Flesher had three children with David Koch who are all younger than 25 and inherited a 42 percent stake after their father’s death. Koch and Flesher met at a party in 1991 and were married five years later in 1996.

MacKenzie Bezos

MacKenzie Bezos
Photo by Jerod Harris via Getty Images
Photo by Jerod Harris via Getty Images

MacKenzie Bezos is the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. The couple filed for divorce in 2019 and in her final settlement, MacKenzie earned a 4 percent stake in the company, making her one of the richest women in the world. Her $35.8 billion net worth also earned her a spot on the billionaires’ list.

The couple met before Amazon was founded and were engaged just after three months of dating. Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos were married for 25 years and have four children together. She played a significant role in making Amazon the giant e-commerce business it is today.