What Is A Centibillionaire And How Many Are There?

A "centibillionaire" is an individual whose net worth is greater than one hundred billion dollars. Let that settle in for a bit: one hundred billion dollars in United States currency. One person. For some perspective on this twisted, almost unfathomable amount of wealth, consider a few statistics. In 2020, the most recent year for which complete data is available, there were, according to the World Bank, well over 100 countries with an annual gross domestic product of less than $100 billion. This means, yes, most of the nations on the planet have a GDP smaller than the assets of these grotesquely wealthy human beings.

For further perspective, keep in mind that the world's first-ever billionaire was only minted about a hundred years ago. As reported by Investopedia, John D. Rockefeller was the first individual to amass assets worth that 10-figure amount, which he reached in 1916. (Granted, heads of state in bygone eras surely controlled wealth commensurate to that of today's ultra-rich, but kings, queens, tsars, and emperors rarely made public disclosures of their accounts.) Now, mind-boggling as it seems (and is), some financial world watchers await the coming of the world's first trillionaire.

As we await that day — one that will hopefully never arrive — let's take a look at the handful of people in the rarefied centibillionaire club, a club with fewer than a dozen known members as of 2022. (Though that can shift either direction based on up or down days in the global markets!)

Mukesh Ambani

Mukesh Ambani is, according to India Today, a member of the centibillionaire circle — but he only just squeaks in as of 2022, with his wealth barely surpassing that astounding $100 billion mark. If world markets tumble, he'll be the first out of the circle, but don't worry, this ultra-wealthy human being will still be just fine. Ambani is the head of Reliance Industries, a conglomerate that has interests in oil and gas, chemicals, telecom, and shipping and transportation. In other words, his bread and butter are all essential to untold numbers of people all around the world.

For the record, Ambani has announced plans for serious investment in green and renewable energy as well, via Economic Times reporting. He does, of course, see green energy as an investment that will yield high returns, not just something magnanimous to do for a cleaner planet. India may well be able to export $500 billion worth of clean energy over the next two decades, and Ambani wants in. So that's potentially five times this one man's net worth in energy export profits, spread out over 20 years. Hopefully, those efforts will be maintained and can help play some role in reducing climate impact even as they further enrich people like Ambani.

Gautam Adani

Gautam Adani is the newest member of the elite $100 billion gang as of this writing, according to reporting from CNN, with his net worth having come to surpass the vaunted 12-figure mark in just the first few months of 2022. And indeed his wealth has surged, surpassing that of Mukesh Ambani's to make Adani the eighth richest person on the globe (or ninth, depending on how you consider the assets of certain Russian dictators — more to come on that). Forbes puts Adani's current wealth at $111.3 billion, in fact, a hefty chunk above the $100 billion baseline here, and a testament to how quickly fortunes rise and fall based on the performance of global financial markets.

Adani is now the wealthiest individual in all of Asia — for some context here, according to WorldOMeter, Asia is currently home to 4.71 billion people. (And in case you want more context, the entire human population of the earth is estimated to be around 7.9 billion right now, making Asia far and away the most populous continent.) His fortune comes thanks to the eponymous Adani Group, which controls companies involved in everything from coal plants to aerospace firms to ports and shipping. He is also heavily involved in real estate, according to India Today. And like Ambani, Adani has announced that he will make large investments in clean and renewable energy in the future.

Sergey Brin

Sergey Brin was born in Russia but made his life in America. And he made his fortune here, as well. If you Google his name, which is Sergey Mikhailovich Brin in its complete form, you will get the title "American business magnate." So what did Brin do that helped him become a $100 billion business magnate? Well, for one thing, he co-founded Google. This is quite likely the vehicle that brought you to this very article, not to mention via which you checked your email, noted the forecast for the day, and on it goes.

While Brin stepped down from his role as president of Google's parent company Alphabet in late 2019, according to Forbes, he remains a board member of the tech powerhouse, not to mention being a "controller shareholder." His holdings of Alphabet shares are responsible for most of this 48-year-old's approximate $115 billion net worth. 

Born in Moscow in 1973, Brin moved to America in the late 1970s and clearly embraced the American dream to its fullest. He studied computer science and joined the blossoming late 20th-century tech world during what would be called the booming Dot Com Bubble in the 1990s, via Investopedia. Obviously, he did not go bust when so many others did, though.

Larry Ellison

As of this writing, Larry Ellison is just a few billion dollars richer than Sergey Brin, with Ellison's current fortune rating at just around $117 billion, as per data from Forbes. But what's a few billion here or there among centibillionaires? Ellison co-founded the software mega-company Oracle, of which he is currently chairman and CTO (chief technology officer), and of which he owns a 35% stake. 

According to his bio on Oracle's own site, Ellison founded the company (their words — in truth he co-founded it with Bob Miner and Ed Oates, according to Business Insider) in 1977 and served as its CEO until 2014. The short bio of this 77-year-old very rich man also says: "He also races sailboats, flies planes, and plays tennis and guitar." One thing the Oracle bio does not mention that gives some perspective here? Larry Ellison owns most of the Hawaiian island of Lanai, having purchased some 97% of the island about a decade ago, according to The New York Times.

Larry Page

It wasn't enough for Google (or Alphabet, call it what you will these days) to help mint one centibillionaire, it had to help with the creation of two. And the wealthier of the two, as of 2022, is Larry Page, who is worth just under $120 billion at time of writing, according to Forbes' "The Real-Time Billionaire's List." Page, who like Google's other guy Sergey Brin, was born in 1973, studied computer science at Michigan State University and later at Stanford. He attended the latter institution at just the right time given the wider trends in tech at the time, and of course, it was there he met Brin, according to Britannica.

And also like Brin, Page stepped down from an active leadership role at Alphabet in late 2019 but remains a member of the board of directors and a major shareholder. Larry Page's LinkedIn page (which he does not update often) self-identifies him as an "Entrepreneur at Google." Today, a more accurate title would be "Centibillionaire who invests in electric vehicles, futuristic air travel startups, and other wild ventures" based on his interests in Tesla Motors, Opener (an aerospace tech firm), and more.

Warren Buffet

When you close your eyes and think of a billionaire, there's a good chance that the first person who comes to mind is Warren Buffet. He has been a billionaire for so long, having first achieved 10-digit wealth in 1990, via Business Insider, that it's hard for many adults to remember a time when his name wasn't essentially shorthand for "very rich person." And now, with his wealth estimated at $125.5 billion by Forbes, he has considerably increased said richness. 

Born in 1930, Buffet is the oldest centibillionaire alive today. He has been working toward his wealth since he was a child, already buying stocks at age 11 and setting up business ventures, from running a pinball machine placement company to having newspaper routes while a young teen. He was a property owner who was already filing tax returns before he even graduated high school. Little wonder this lifelong savvy businessman is super-rich: making money has been his MO for his entire life.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates is another name that has been so long associated with being super-wealthy that he's almost a meme for wealth at this point. His stunning present $135.7 billion fortune, as reported by The Real-Time Billionaires List, is all the more impressive because of just how much money he has given away. According to The Conversation, in 2021 alone, Bill Gates and his ex-wife (and co-head of the charitable Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) Melinda French Gates, pledged to give away $15 billion. That's a pledge for one year: $15 billion.

Taking a larger look at Gates' charitable career, he had already given away some $50 billion as of mid-2020, as reported by USA Today. Had Gates never given away a penny of his wealth, he'd be near or at the top of the list of centibillionaires in terms of wealth. Instead, he's at the top of the list in terms of the positive impact his wealth has had around the globe. Also, Gates plans to donate all but 1% of his fortune when he passes, with his children to get just that last fraction of his billions, reports Newsweek.

Bernard Arnault

Bernard Arnault's wealth is where things go from absolutely mind-boggling to truly hard to grasp. He and the rest of the men on this list are so rich that the numbers essentially lose meaning. At present, according to Forbes, he is worth about $175 billion, though for the record his fortune is shared among a few members of his family. The wealth of the family of this chairman and CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, via his consortium's own site, comes primarily thanks to global sales of high-end and very high priced luxury goods. This is all the more notable given his professional start as an engineer with a construction company. Engineers tend to make things, not money, but clearly, that's not a hard and fast rule.

Europe's richest man by a wide margin (well, again depending on whether not certain dictatorial leaders from Russia count, and also depending on whether you consider Russia to be in Europe or Asia or both), Frenchman Arnault, who is 73 years old in 2022, via Bloomberg, has a wealth that could be used to buy about 1.4 billion barrels of crude oil or some 80 millions ounces of gold, and it amounts to nearly 0.73% of the total GDP of the United States of America.

Jeff Bezos

For a while there, Jeff Bezos was the richest man on the planet. As of 2022, he has to settle for being the second richest (known — looking at you, Russia) human alive, with his wealth just a bit below $200 billion (well, about nine billion below — at the time of this writing, he is worth $191.6 billion). It's no mystery how Bezos made his fortune: he founded Amazon back in 1994, originally using the retailer just to sell books online. Clearly, Bezos always had plans to expand the Amazon business model, but even he must be amazed at how much it has grown in just under 30 years, as reported by Forbes. Today, the 58-year-old Bezos' company is an online retail juggernaut, a movie, mini-series, and TV show production studio and distributor, a music listening service, an ebook platform, and so much more.

And of course, Bezos has added to his own CV as well: beyond founding and running Amazon for years (he stepped down as CEO but stayed on as executive chairman in 2021) he now heads the space tourism and exploration company Blue Horizon (via which he has spent a bit of time almost in space), he owns a major newspaper (The Washington Post), and he invests in biotechnologies aimed at extending human life, according to the MIT Technology Review.

Elon Musk

Say what you will about Elon Musk — and there's a lot to say, from his failure to heed a number of coronavirus safety protocols to his often unusual social media behavior, including the amazing (and hostile) takeover of his preferred outreach platform, Twitter – this South African-born, American made multi-billionaire is the richest man on the planet, and as of 2022, he is the wealthiest by a staggering $100-plus billion. Musk is closing in on a $300 billion fortune. (Though his purchase of Twitter will take about $44 or $45 billion out of that nest egg if it goes through as planned.) Which is perverse, to be sure. No one needs anywhere near that much money, but ... he has it. 

At least in the course of getting all that money, Musk has been at the helm of a number of companies that do some pretty great things, like car maker Tesla Motors, which is arguably leading the charge toward an electric car future, and SpaceX, which has made space travel and cargo deliveries to orbiting craft a nearly routine undertaking, as reported by Vanity Fair.

Musk's work has also brought many people greater internet access, thanks to his Starlink satellite systems, says The Washington Post. And he helped start PayPal back in the day, an online payment processing platform used by tens of millions of people each and every day. And while Musk does profess to give away money, having reportedly donated some $5.7 billion last year, it's not clear where his donations go, according to Fortune.

Vladimir Putin

As of 2022, Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, is not enjoying much social capital, given that he is behind an illegal and savage invasion of his country's neighbor, Ukraine. What this one-time Soviet communist KGB officer turned multi-term president of the successor state to the USSR is enjoying is plenty of financial capital, though it's unlikely anyone will ever know the full extent of Putin's assets.

According to International Business Times, Vladimir Putin is officially paid just under 10,000,000 rubles each year, an amount that equals about $120,000 USD, for his work as Russia's president. This would not make him the richest man on earth. Fortunately for Putin's coffers, over the two and a half or so decades in which he has held power, this is not a man who is all that concerned with official anything. 

Putin has amassed a fortune that could be well north of $200 billion, according to CNN, by appropriating, obfuscating, threatening, stealing, and on it goes. He has taken billions of dollars from Russian oligarchs (who had already misappropriated wealth) through threats and coercion and punitive measures, he has directed state funds to himself, and he has arranged national contracts that will be personally beneficial. And while of course, Putin has lots of liquid money hidden about all over Russia and around the globe — though current sanctions make the latter rather hard to tap, via Axios — it's his other assets that truly stupefy. Putin reportedly owns some 700 automobiles, according to Auto Bizz, a plane worth some $700 million, per Escape, and real estate with combined values well into the billions, says SCMP.