How the World’s Richest People Can Lose Billions in a Single Day

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The world’s richest man is Jeff Bezos, worth some $182 billion as of this writing, even after losing an estimated $38 billion in his divorce. But the phrase “as of this writing” is pretty crucial because his net worth fluctuates daily.

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That’s because Bezos is among a class of billionaires known as centibillionaires, or those with a net worth of at least $100 billion. In Bezos’ case, he owes his centibillionaire status to his whopping 54 million-plus share stake in Amazon, amounting to over 10% of the company.

Given how volatile stock markets can be, however, Bezos, along with many of his wealthy colleagues, is always just one bad trading day from having billions of dollars shaved off of his net worth. On Sep. 3, 2020 alone, 10 individuals lost more than $1 billion each,  and as you’ll see below, some days have been even worse.

For the average investor, this should serve as an important cautionary tale about the importance of a diverse portfolio: when you have all your eggs in one basket, you live and die with that basket. This is why any financial advisor worth their salt will tell you it’s so important to use mutual funds and/or ETFs to spread your investments out across hundreds — even thousands – of different stocks in addition to investing in bonds and other types of securities as well.

Look at billionaires whose net worths have taken a massive tumble in a single day.

Last updated: March 17, 2021

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Jeff Bezos

Date: Sep. 3, 2020
Company: Amazon Inc.
Percent Drop for Company Stock: 3.36%
Loss to Net Worth: $9 billion

Sept. 3, 2020 wasn’t a particularly rough day for Amazon stock. Although the company’s stock price dropped 3.36% that day, AMZN shares have fallen 5% or more on some days. However, the Sept. 3 drop in 2020 resulted in a massive $9 billion loss for Jeff Bezos in a single day. Before you shed a tear for Mr. Bezos, however, know this — on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the election, Bezos added $10.5 billion to his net worth thanks to a spike in Amazon stock.

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Mark Zuckerberg

Date: July 26, 2018
Company: Facebook Inc.
Percent Drop for Company Stock: 19%
Loss to Net Worth: $15 billion

The reaction to Facebook’s disappointing Q2 earnings report — that showed unsatisfying revenue and sluggish user growth — prompted an entirely unprecedented loss for a company of its size — or any size. Its $100 billion-plus loss was the largest loss of market value in a single day for any company in history. Zuckerberg, who owned over 384 million shares of Facebook at the time, ended up losing $15 billion in just eight hours — or, to put it another way, about the same as the annual GDP of Jamaica at the time.

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Warren Buffett

Date: Oct. 10, 2018
Company: Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Percent Drop for Company Stock: 4.9%
Loss to Net Worth: $4.48 billion

On Oct. 10, 2018, Warren Buffett lost nearly $4.5 billion when his company’s stock, Berkshire Hathaway, tanked nearly 5% in a single day. However, big moves like this aren’t all that rare when you are one of the world’s richest men. Buffett suffered an additional $9.8 billion loss in a single week in February 2020, as word of the coronavirus pandemic spread. Never fear, though — the Oracle of Omaha still had a net worth of $85.7 billion as of December 2020.

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Sergey Brin

Date: Sep. 3, 2020
Company: Alphabet Inc.
Percent Drop for Company Stock: 5%
Loss to Net Worth: $3.5 billion

Sergei Brin was one of the co-founders of Google, which now trades as Alphabet, Inc. As of December 2020, Brin, who has since stepped down from his role with Google, had a net worth of $74.7 billion. However, Brin felt some pain on Sept. 3, 2020, when Alphabet stock dropped 5%, taking Brin’s net worth down by $3.5 billion in a single day.

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Larry Page

Date: Sep. 3, 2020
Company: Alphabet Inc.
Percent Drop for Company Stock: 5%
Loss to Net Worth: $3.6 billion

Sergey Brin fared a bit better on Sept. 3, 2020, than did Google’s other co-founder, Larry Page. By virtue of owning more shares of Alphabet than Brin, Page suffered a loss of $3.6 billion on that September day when Alphabet sold off 5%. It’s hard to keep perspective when dealing with numbers this large, but that “small” incremental loss — $3.6 billion vs. $3.5 billion — still amounts to a whopping $100 million.

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Elon Musk

Date: Sep. 8, 2020
Company: Tesla
Percent Drop for Company Stock: 21%
Loss to Net Worth: $16 billion

Sept. 8, 2020 was the worst trading day in Tesla history. The company’s stock fell 21% in a single day, dragging down CEO Elon Musk’s net worth by an astounding $16 billion. This dramatic drop is on top of the $8.5 billion Musk lost less than a week earlier, on Sept. 3, 2020. Of course, context is everything. As of December 2020, Tesla stock was up 680% year-to-date, making Musk the world’s second richest person with a net worth of $151 billion.

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Jack Ma

Date: Sep. 3, 2020
Company: Alibaba Inc.
Percent Drop for Company Stock: 4.6%
Loss to Net Worth: $1.6 billion

Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba had a very bad, no-good, terrible day for investors on Sept. 3, 2020, when shares plunged nearly $14 per share during a single trading day. That wasn’t good news for any shareholders, but the company’s founder Jack Ma ended up leaving the day with a $1.6 billion haircut to his net worth.

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Steve Ballmer

Date: Sep. 3, 2020
Company: Microsoft Inc.
Percent Drop for Company Stock: 6.2%
Loss to Net Worth: $4.8 billion

Even more established tech firms like Microsoft got caught up in the Sept. 3 swoon, with Microsoft shedding just over 6% on the same day that Google and Amazon took a hit. Steve Ballmer, the man who followed Bill Gates as Microsoft’s CEO, lost nearly $5 billion in a single day. Ballmer still maintains a net worth of over $79 billion as of December 2020.

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Bill Gates

Date: Sep. 3, 2020
Company: Microsoft Inc.
Percent Drop for Company Stock: 6.2%
Loss to Net Worth: $2.9 billion

The original CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates, had the same bad day as Steve Ballmer on Sept. 3, 2020, when Microsoft stock dropped over 6%. Gates’ loss wasn’t quite as severe as Ballmer’s, but it still reached nearly $3 billion.

These days, however, the fate of Microsoft stock isn’t likely preoccupying Gates’ mind. Gates has pledged to give away most of his wealth and currently owns just over 1% of Microsoft shares,  instead focusing most of his energy on his philanthropic Gates Foundation, which has given away over $54 billion. The former Microsoft CEO is currently the third-richest person in the world, with a net worth of $130 billion.

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Larry Ellison

Date: Sep. 3, 2020
Company: Oracle Inc.
Percent Drop for Company Stock: 3.27%
Loss to Net Worth: $2.4 billion

Shares of tech company Oracle took a beating on Sept. 3, 2020, along with so many others. Founder and CEO Larry Ellison lost $2.4 billion that day. However, Ellison doesn’t seem to be hurting. The tech giant announced he is taking his $77 billion net worth and moving from California to Lanai, the private island in Hawaii that he owns.

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Joel Anderson contributed to the reporting for this article.