Are there people actually richer than Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos

I hear this claim a lot that Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos would not even be top 100 richest people in America and that there's these shadow people with way more money than them.

I always sense bullshit to these claims as they usually come from people who have never even interacted with a millionaire or claim their buddy Eric once knew a trillionaire. 

I am also not talking about families of a few dozen people who might control 1 or 2 trillion seeing as if you divide it evenly thats less than 100bn each. Or a dictator who calculates their countries GDP as their net worth even though most of it is intangible.

I mean actual singular individuals in America or the rest of the world who has near absolute control over their assets to the tune of over 200bn to trillions. Do these people exist or are they just made up villains by people who want to believe there is always something bigger to uncover. 

Seeing as most of us work in high finance or grew up around the insanely rich I can guess that a lot of us has been exposed in one way or another to the top of the upper echelon and can make an informed guess.

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Comments (53)

Jan 16, 2022 - 10:36am
2rigged2fail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

there are people that want to keep a low profile out there for sure. 

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Jan 16, 2022 - 10:56am
NudnikShpilkes, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The lists that are published compiling the richest people in the world are based on publicly available information so they really aren't going to be very accurate given how much private wealth there is in the world. I would think the published net worth of people like Musk, Bezos, etc., where most of their wealth is derived from ownership in a public company is roughly accurate but things get murky real quick when people start disguising their wealth with multiple LLCs and holding companies.

I watched an interview a few years ago with the individual that puts together the top wealthiest people list for Forbes and she mentioned that the lists really aren't very accurate.

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:07am
K-Peezy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Of course there are. Keep in mind most (I'd feel comfortable guessing at least 90%+) of the people who wind up on these "lists" are also tallied up using publicly known data. That thorn in the side of the wealthy. Also, the catastrophizers decrying the "wealth" of the people we know about also fail basic Econ 201 in that their wealth is tied to volatile instruments like their equity shares of the companies they're known for. So on paper Musk/Bezos/Gates/etc have that kind of net worth based on whatever the last ticker print was on market close at 4:00 EST. Then there's people like the Perots, Crowe family, Cuban et all who are supposed to be worth those huge values but it's all based off of one-time transaction values such as "I wonder what Cuban could get for selling the Mavs and his stake in AAC tomorrow?".

Basically, think of the whole concept of the millionaire next door but turn it up one or two more notches. They certainly exist and we know it because plenty of us on this board have either worked for or with a person or family that ticks that box.

I'd type another chapter on things like hiding value in charities, non-marketable assets, artificial debts to try and zero out net worth/income, transfer pricing valuation/tax avoidance plans, etc but I'm still waking up.

Edit: Eat Domino's and escalate those local franchise owners beyond members of the millionaire next door club.

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:10am
Short Caller, what's your opinion? Comment below:
:

I'd type another chapter on things like hiding value in charities, non-marketable assets, artificial debts to try and zero out net worth/income, transfer pricing valuation/tax avoidance plans, etc but I'm still waking up.

Please do share though, sounds very interesting.

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Jan 16, 2022 - 11:51am
craig.owen, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I understand where you're coming from but $200bn+ in assets that belongs to a random private citizen with little to no public paper trail seems off. I am sure there are quite a few billionaires that no one or very few people know but once you cross that 25bn+ line I feel like a whale that large would start making some waves it just can't help it.

And thats not discounting that people are claiming Elon isnt even top 100 in America, insinuating that there is a sizable plethora of private non public individuals who hold upwards of $300bn to $1Trn not as a family but as a single person. Like I said I believe a whale that big will always make a few waves that someone will spot

Jan 16, 2022 - 12:03pm
K-Peezy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You said it yourself, private citizen. There'd be a papertrail, but it wouldn't have their name on it. I agree that it'd be harder and harder the more and more wealth is involved. But impossible? No.

Think about it another way: all those massively expensive apartments there on Park Ave. Homeboy just sold his for 2x what he paid for it ($200mm), and never lived in it. That's one unit, and the only reason we knew about it is because he's a well known hedge funder. How many other units in that building are worth $100mm, sitting empty, and have a ghost's name on the deed for privacy reasons? How many of these individuals own multiple units just as an off-book store of wealth/value to hold in silence until they want to sell?

With that example in mind, look at the notoriety of the Chinese buying up swaths of SF or Vancouver sight unseen at already inflated prices and driving local markets way up just in order to park their money somewhere stable and fixed. Hell, there's a subdivision across the street from my condo building that is entirely empty and while on the "lower value" end of this scale are all still $7-12mm homes. In the years I've lived here, I've only ever seen TWO people actually spend any time there, and it was just for a weekend. Otherwise they all pay HOA dues, utilities, have a 24/7 security guard that probably makes well over market because these people just think it's a rounding error to their checking accounts and don't care so long as it keeps the illusion up and break-ins down (and break-ins means attention, of any kind).

Most Helpful
Jan 16, 2022 - 11:13am
kellycriterion, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I would reject the notion that someone could be completely off the radar and be worth hundreds of billions like Bezos or Musk. Tesla and Amazon are enormous entities that people have heard of, and it takes that level of splashiness in order to have an entity large enough that your net worth would be that high.

The real caveat is the one that Forbes already explicitly says in its methodology: it doesn't take into account the wealth of royalty or dictators. That's where the real fun begins. Nobody really knows the net worth of a Vladimir Putin or an MBS, and yet both of them likely already control more money than Bezos and Musk or could at least seize that much through nationalizing Rosneft, Saudi Aramco, or liquidating oligarchs as political enemies. Once you're the leader of a country and can form death squads, other people's money has an uncanny way of becoming your money if you wish. So no, nobody off the radar, just the people we know have clout in their home countries.

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:43am
craig.owen, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You voiced my doubts in a very clear way. I feel like it would be very difficult to have that kind of money and be a shadow individual that no one has heard of and isn't on every wall street guys radar.

Even if you count royalty and dictators, they are still fairly public individuals that can be found on google with their biographies on wikipedia. As someone pointed out even the largest estimates of Vladmir Putin's net worth is 200bn and thats Vladmir Putin the head huncho of Russia, thats still puts him below Elon. 

I highly doubt there is some bloke or lady in London, Florida, Texas, LA, NY or even Switzerland and China who have 200bn - 1trn+ to themselves and are fully private citizens.

I am sure there are shadow billionaires to the tune of 1-20bn that few people know like Jho Low before he was arrested. Anything more than 50bn to 100bn to trillions like some people claim seem very far fetched to me.

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:46am
kellycriterion, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agree with you on nearly anything. To be like a Mars, or Koch, or Cargill kind of deal is just too tough without any scrutiny. Only place I don't agree is with measuring world leaders' net worth. I don't think that's quite as static as you're making it out to be. Read my response to Drumpfy below.

Jan 16, 2022 - 1:36pm
2rigged2fail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I've heard of people paying $250k to be kept off of such lists

Jan 16, 2022 - 1:39pm
kellycriterion, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Both of these things can simultaneously be true:

1. Beyond a certain level of wealth, it is impossible to entirely suppress knowledge of that wealth or conceal it. Too many people work for you. Too many business ventures in too many markets.

2. There are wealthy people who would otherwise appear on the Forbes list who pay Forbes not to appear on the list in order to maintain a lower profile.

I think what you said is correct, but it can't be implemented above a certain level of wealth.

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:19am
Arroz con Pollo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

There are several heads of state who, ignoring GDP, are filthy rich. Take basically any African country and Google the presidential family. You'll 100% find articles about stealing money from their country. Money is liquid when you have the power to kill anyone who brings up the corruption.

You mentioned royal families don't count because they wealth is spread out, but the Saudis have access to probably a hundred billion in liquid cash if I had to guess. No basis for my guess, but seems reasonable.

It's a disgrace how rich these people are while their countrymen live in poverty. The entire Middle East is a disgrace - we all know Saudi finances terrorists, yet nothing is done because of oil money.

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:24am
Drumpfy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Elon is apparently worth 269 billion dollars, which is 69 billion higher than the maximum estimate of Putin's wealth, 200 billion.  Holy fuck.  Do you guys think it's sustainable?

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:29am
kellycriterion, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Do I think Musk is sustainable? I think the bull case for Tesla is replacing the country's autos with a nationwide electrified taxi system, which is unlike any automaker in history. We'll see where that goes.

I don't know that the maximum wealth Putin possesses is just what Rick Gates or Bill Browder says. I think it's what he could seize from his enemies too. Maybe he doesn't want to spend the political capital on liquidating people because he thinks he has what he needs already. That doesn't negate his ability to liquidate a few oligarchs and put him over the top.

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:52am
K-Peezy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Putin, yes. Musk, no. Putin's is tied into hard assets (that anyone knows of) and cashflow items like natgas consortiums. Musk's "wealth" is tied to shares who's prices are influenced and valued according to whatever pitch the associates at Vanguard tell their index fund PM and convince them that Tesla is going down so dump the shares now which means Musk has to go along for their ride. Not to mention the calculus involved of if Musk were to liquidate all his shares right now which would not be for the one-time lump sum value (then there's the tax debate and it's effects on people like Musk or the shadow wealthy who have plenty of plays to run in order to minimize their taxabe footprint). And then Musk wouldn't have control over Tesla anymore either, so he'd just be some dude with a ton of money and no power (which is really what this metric is meant to be a proxy of).

Jan 16, 2022 - 2:08pm
Isaiah_53_5 💎🙌💎🙌💎, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Occam's Razor would probably say no.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Jan 16, 2022 - 3:41pm
chumpchimp, what's your opinion? Comment below:

But he is not american :/

Array
Jan 16, 2022 - 3:50pm
Mr Incredible, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think Economics Explained has a lot of issues, but this specific video is spot on for your question. There probably aren't people who could liquidate that much (ignoring dilution from liquidation), but there are many who could still afford certain things. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MeRN7LE1LQ

Jan 16, 2022 - 5:42pm
papertiger, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Most political dynasties across the world are millionaires. Then there's the royals like the Saudi Royal family.

Then there's dictators posing as democratically elected types like Putin.

I'd still rank royals higher than the Putins of the world though.

The Al-Saud family of Saudi Arabia owns ARAMCO which listed for I think a trillion.

Then there's the cash story:

A. Bezos and Musk have most of their net worth in the form of floating shares on a digital stock exchange. It's not cash, whatever figure is associated with them.

B. That makes the real cash story elite not the ones on Forbes or whatever since that's not a cash list.

My real guess is it's those who own:

A.  Countries (Al-Saud)

B. Large scale corporation owners and the controlling voting stockholders who have access to that cash on the balance sheet of said firm (Ambanis of India)

By the way if you know about the law of diminishing marginal returns in econ class, you find all of this boring.

A Musk or a Bezos cannot buy the U.S. Justice Department or INTERPOL or their Supreme Court.

Remember the hit job the Saudi prince pulled off  on that journalist ? That's true power. To be not jailable is almost like a divine power. Crazy.

The Al-Sauds for example own a:

A. Sovereign Wealth Fund

The Al-Thanis of Qatar own a:

A. Sovereign Wealth Fund which owns stakes in firms like Harrod's and Deutsche Bank

Jan 16, 2022 - 5:53pm
papertiger, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Don't forget, being rich is different from being influential or powerful. Cash or stock doesn't cut it these days.

Imagine driving like a moron in Beverly Hills and getting away with it claiming diplomatic immunity lol. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZctCodzytDs

Jan 16, 2022 - 7:01pm
Jamie Deen, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I agree with this take. If you think about it, there are only a few paths to massive wealth:

1) Head of State (clearly not an unknown individual)

2) Owner of Public Co. (known person)

3) Owner of Private Co.  (Can be unknown)

4) Inheritor (Unknown)

There are really only two some what discreet paths to Musk/Bezos money. I think the most plausible scenario for this "secret wealth" would be a very old family whose money has not been spread among hundreds of heirs. The Cargill/McMillans are super loaded, but among 100+ share holders, not as dramatic. Same issue for a lot of the children of the gilded age robber barons here in the US. 

 I think there are a lot more "mid-level billionaires" out there than most people realize. Imagine you own 100% of a closely held private co. The #100 on the list of largest private co's in America makes $4.7 Bn (estimates) top line. Hypothetically, you have even a 5% net income margin, thats up to 235mm a year you COULD take out of the business. Imagine you move down the line and into the obscure world of 1-2Bn dollar equipment distributors & auto parts manufacturers. You get become a billionaire just off of ownership distribution before we even think of the equity value

Jan 16, 2022 - 7:18pm
PrivateTechquity 🚀GME🚀, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I don't know about individuals, but there are families that dwarf them for sure. The House of Saud and Rothschilds both certainly have combined assets worth over $1 trillion. 

Array

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:20pm
Jamie Deen, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think the Rothschilds are very interesting. They were some of the first to really pioneer writing trusts for wealth preservation as I understand it. 
 

I can only imagine what 300 yrs of compound interest ends up at. But it may be totally sliced and diced into various family branches

I don't really know how you can keep serious coin in 1 family for generations (more than 3). I guess strict primogeniture for the bulk of the $$? 

Jan 16, 2022 - 7:39pm
JoeCamel, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Ali khamenei

Kim Jong 

Sultan of Brunei

Muammar Gaddafi

Salman Al Saud 

Putin 

Xi Jinping

Bhumibol Adulyadej

Array

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Jan 16, 2022 - 11:30pm
papertiger, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Xi Jinping ?

The death penalty is taken seriously in China where millionaire public officials have been convicted and executed for corruption.

You really think China would let their main guy off the hook while he's drowning in money ?

Prolly did a few under the table deals and took commissions but doubt he's worth a lot.

China doesn't joke when it comes to corrupt officials. 

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:48pm
Short Caller, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Xi literally is the dictator of China, there's no doubt that he's loaded and he can kill anyone complaining about it. Of course he has political enemies, but for the moment he has enough power to make sure that he's the one writing the rules.

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:30pm
papertiger, what's your opinion? Comment below:

They own a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Most people do not own a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Because most people do not own countries.

Let that sink in. 

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:25pm
papertiger, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The Rothschilds are still very much maestros and in the game, Forbes appearance or not.

They do investment banking for crooked companies that are involved in insane levels of corruption in Africa.

In short, some people may not exceed the nominal wealth associated with a Bezos or Musk but the sheer level of intricacy into which they're woven into as far as the world of high finance goes is pretty insane.

I wonder if there are any heirs to JP Morgan that still own a stake in the firm. They'd also be up there.

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:32pm
lucifermorningstar1999, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Would not say there are any individuals that directly control more than 200bn+ and are private. You can make a pretty solid case for MBS or Putin because they pretty much control the countries they are in. But for sure there are plenty of extremely old money families who have existed from the "feudal" times in Europe and still retained/grew much of their wealth over centuries and that number is pretty obscure but they exist with well over 200bn+ in net worth in one concentrated family line of sorts. Given human history, it is simply impossible that all that feudal wealth has been fully distributed. As others have said, a lot probably exists under unnamed holding companies, LLCs, land ownership etc. 

Another interesting thing to think about is despite the massive net worths of Bezos and Elon, how much of that really translates to how much power they have in their country. Atm, both of them are just messing with each other (Bezos funding Rivian for example). You got guys in other countries who have a lower net worth but have exponentially more power. For example, Ambani is worth about 100bn or so but has such a major grip on India that he controls most of the industrials, telecoms, energy of the country and could get any politician to dance for him if he wants too. Heck the man literally had Beyonce give a private concert for his daughters wedding and lives in a 700 foot tall skyscraper by himself and with his family. 

Jan 16, 2022 - 11:53pm
papertiger, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Does anyone know of any proper European business/political dynasties.

A. Wallenbergs of Sweden

B. Thurn and Taxis family of Germany 

C. Medici of Italy (now dissolved)

D. Agnellis of Italy

People who've been in the game for 50+ years and possibly for a century or so ?

Medici are pretty epic. They funded a good part of culture and arts and even erected a few buildings I think.

Luck ****ers. A life very well lived. 

Jan 17, 2022 - 12:02am
papertiger, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Left out Russian oligarchs because:

A. It's recent wealth

B. Russia is not considered EU.

Jan 17, 2022 - 9:51am
wolfofthecity, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think another factor to consider is how much access individuals have to liquid cash. Sure, Bezos and Musk are very rich on paper, but at one point Jho Low and even now Mohammed bin Salman probably had / have more easily accessible / controllable cash at their disposal

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Jan 17, 2022 - 11:11am
Anonymous Monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yes I believe there are. I know you mentioned to avoid politicians, but the truth is that many of them are incredibly wealthy. For example the ex Philippines president stole billions of tax payer dollars and hid them in a Swiss bank account and the Philippines has never been able to retrieve that money. I assume there's many other people out there who have done the same whether it's Putin or the sultan of Brunei etc. I also believe that old money families could possibly be worth more as well since they've had generations of compounding wealth. 
 

however, I don't really think about topics like these very much because it all seems a little conspiracy-ish and to be honest I don't care how much money someone else has as I should only worry about my situation 

Jan 17, 2022 - 11:14am
anon6414, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Jan 17, 2022 - 11:14am
papertiger, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Jan 17, 2022 - 11:14am
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