The fast rise and fall of COVID-19 billionaires

In a little less than three years, 58 entrepreneurs saw their wealth multiply at a rapid clip given their ties to businesses that met pandemic-born needs — and they just as quickly saw those new fortunes crumble, according to an Oct. 17 Bloomberg analysis. 

The 58 billionaires' average net worth is still greater compared to pre-pandemic, but their outsized gains have slumped more sharply compared to more than 100 members of Bloomberg's Billionaires Index, whose wealth was not married to COVID-19. 

The 58 entrepreneurs are linked to businesses in seven categories: stay-at-home solutions, COVID-19 vaccines, remote work tools, e-commerce, medical equipment, payment technology and chips. "More than half of the tycoons are associated with stay-at-home habits, remote work or e-commerce," according to Bloomberg. "One-third are linked to companies in the pharma and healthcare world, producing everything from vaccines to ventilators." 

Here are five takeaways from Bloomberg's analysis, which can be found in full here.

1. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel saw a 75 percent drop to his net worth from the peak of COVID-19 to Sept. 30. Mr. Bancel "was just another scientist-investor toiling in the labs of Cambridge, Mass., when COVID-19 descended," Bloomberg writes. By August 2021, hundreds of millions of people had received Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, propelling the company's shares to an all-time high and elevating Mr. Bancel's net worth to $15 billion. Omicron and its ability to evade vaccines would push skepticism and the crumble of Mr. Bancel's net worth, which stood at $3.7 billion as of Sept. 30. The CEO has said he plans to eventually give most of his money away.

2. Eric Yuan, chairman and CEO of Zoom, saw his net worth drop 84 percent from the pandemic's peak to Sept. 30 after economies reopened and competition for video-conferencing software intensified. When much of the world Zoomed for their professional and personal lives in COVID-19 lockdowns and times of social distancing, Mr. Yuan's fortune surged to nearly $29 billion. As of Sept. 30, it stood at $4.6 billion. Mr. Yuan donated about a third of his Zoom stake last year and has cashed in more than $2.6 billion from stock sales since the start of 2020.

3. Big tech leaders have seen their net worth fall by a third compared to its pandemic peak. Larry Page, Google co-founder and Alphabet board member, saw his net worth climb to $133 billion at the peak of COVID-19 then fall back to $89 billion as of Sept. 30. Larry Ellison, chair and chief technology officer of Oracle, saw his net worth climb to $120 billion in the pandemic's peak and then recede to $80 billion as of Sept. 30.

4. Wealth has fallen dramatically in each of the seven business categories Bloomberg analyzed, with e-commerce seeing the greatest retreats. "Assets there have fallen by an average of 58 percent from their peak as investor interest — and speculative bets — have cooled and many bored-at-home people have resumed their pre-COVID lives," the analysis states. 

5. Kim Forrest, founder of Pittsburgh-based investment firm Bokeh Capital Partners, likened the fast rise of companies benefiting from stay-at-home orders to the dot-com bubble in the 1990s. "They were filling a niche that desperately needed to be solved, but it wasn't a long-run kind of thing," she told Bloomberg. "Investors are looking for growth and there is no more growth to be had in work-from-home."

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