2020 was, by consensus opinion, not a very good year for most of us. The COVID-19 pandemic kept us cooped up and away from our loved ones and it's still going on now, while the economic effects of that disaster took their toll as well. As usual, though, billionaires found a way to thrive even when it didn't exactly make for great optics or cohere with any "we're all in this together" messaging.
Elon Musk, who in the first week of 2021 managed to become the richest person in the world, had an almost unbelievably good 2020 from a financial standpoint. While he didn't quite make it to the number one wealth slot before the end of 2020, he did see his fortune rise an incredible $142 billion over the course of the year. That, to put it in perspective, was basically the equivalent of making Bill Gates's entire fortune in a single year.
While no other billionaire saw their fortune rise as much as $142 billion, Jeff Bezos had a pretty good 2020, too. Amazon's stock market performance was stellar as online retail saw easily explainable booms through a year of social distancing and lockdowns, and Bezos's own net worth went up more than $75 billion.
On the other side of the globe, Chinese beverage billionaire Zhong Shanshan did almost as well as Bezos in 2020, with a fortune that was $71.4 billion greater at the end of the year than at the beginning. Another businessman in China, e-commerce billionaire Colin Huang, saw the next biggest gain with a $43 billion increase in his own net worth over 2020.
The next biggest growth in personal fortune belonged to Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert. Gilbert ended 2020 with a net worth of $33.3 billion, which was an increase of more than $26 billion. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's 2020 was almost as good, as his own net worth grew by $25.2 billion.
2020's economic trends will probably be studied for years to come, but one thing that's immediately clear is that these six billionaires – Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Zhong Shanshan, Colin Huang, Dan Gilbert, and Mark Zuckerberg – benefited the most from those volatile trendlines.