For the 30 years FORBES has been tracking global wealth, only five people have ranked on our annual compendium of wealth as the richest person on the planet. In between those annual lists, at least two people have briefly become the world’s richest, the most recent of whom was Jeff Bezos, who overtook Bill Gates as No. 1 on July 27 as Amazon stock surged.
Gates has held the title for 18 of the past 23 years. So who were the other richest people in the world in the three decades FORBES has been tracking wealth?
Amazon founder and CEO Bezos overtook Bill Gates to become the richest person in the world on Thursday morning July 27, with a fortune topping $90 billion for the first time ever.When markets opened Thursday, Bezos had a net worth of $90.6 billion, putting him $500 million ahead of Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates.
Gates was previously surpassed on Forbes’ real-time rankings for just two days nearly a year ago by Spanish clothing retail tycoon Amancio Ortega. Forbes started tracking billionaires around the globe in 1987.
Bezos became the seventh person to hold the title of the world’s richest person and the third American to top the global ranks besides Gates and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.
The founder of Spanish clothing retailer Inditex (known in the U.S. for its Zara stores), topped Gates as the richest on Forbes’ real-time rankings for a few hours in Oct. 2015 and for two days in Sept. 2016 but just as quickly fell out of the top rank. Ortega, the world’s wealthiest retailer, typically earns more than $400 million in dividends a year.
When shares of Ortega’s business Inditex ticked up 2.5% in 2016, his fortune was boosted by $1.7 billion, then fell 2.8% two days later.
The son of a railway worker from La Coruña, Spain, Ortega is as reclusive as he is rich. He started his career as a store clerk in his hometown before opening his own business. Beginning with less than $100, he and his then-wife Rosalia Mera began making lingerie, pajamas and nightgowns in their living room.
In 2010, a billionaire from a country other than the U.S. or Japan topped the list for the first time: telecom tycoon Carlos Slim Helu. Riding the surging stock price of his telecom firm America Movil, the Mexican tycoon beat out Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to become the world’s richest. He held onto the top spot for four years.
Warren Buffett rose to the top in 2008. Gates’ fortune had tumbled after Microsoft’s failed attempt to merge with Yahoo. That was also the year Gates stepped down as Microsoft chairman to focus on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He reclaimed the top ranking in 2009 with a much smaller fortune of $40 billion.
An American first took the top spot on Forbes annual World’s Billionaires list in 1995. That was the year Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates climbed to number one with a net worth of $12.5 billion. He was one of just 365 billionaires that year and has held the title of world’s richest for 18 of the past 23 years.
Gates’ rise, though meteoric, was not instant. He cofounded Microsoft in 1975 but didn’t top our list for another two decades. In 1995, Microsoft stock was rising as tech firm valuations skyrocketed. Gates’ net worth was $12.9 billion, and it continued to grow astronomically over the next four years.
At its height, in 1999 near the peak of the Internet-fueled boom, Gates’ fortune reached $90 billion. Today, he remains a board member of Microsoft, the software firm he founded with Paul Allen.
In 1991, Taikichiro Mori became the world’s richest person with a $15 billion fortune. An economics professor, he quit the university in 1959 and went into business, constructing office buildings in Tokyo’s Minato ward. He had 65 office buildings with 7.7 million square feet of floor space when Forbes first named his fortune the world’s largest.
The richest person on FORBES’ very first World Billionaires List in 1987 was Japanese billionaire Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, who had a $20 billion net worth at the time. Tsutsumi was one of 140 billionaires around the world on that first ranking of the world’s 10-figure fortunes, worth a combined $295 billion.
Tsutsumi’s wealth came from real estate and retail through his Seibu Group at the height of the Japanese real estate bubble. After being beaten out by Mori in 1991, Tsutsumi was back on top two years later with a $9 billion fortune and was also the richest person the next year for the last time.
A decade later, Tsutsumi had a fall from grace: His Seibu Group was delisted in 2004 due to years of reporting errors. He was arrested the next year, fined $42,000 and received a four-year suspended prison sentence. Tsutsumi fell off of the Billionaires List entirely in 2007.