Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rihanna Reach Billionaire Status
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Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rihanna Reach Billionaire Status

By FANG BLOCK
Fri, Mar 24, 2023 8:55amGrey Clock 3 min

The global billionaire population declined 8% year over year in the 12 months to January due to volatile stock markets and a strong U.S. dollar, according to new data.

However, Bernard Arnault of French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH saw his wealth increase 37%, boosting him to the first place on the list. Among the newly minted billionaires are sports and entertainment stars, including Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Rihanna.

There were a total of 3,112 individuals worth more than US$1 billion, 269 fewer from a year ago. The billionaires’ combined wealth also dropped 10% year over year to US$13.7 trillion, according to the Hurun Global Rich List 2023 released Thursday.

Wealth is calculated in U.S. dollar terms based on a snapshot on Jan. 16.

“Interest rate hikes, the appreciation of the U.S. dollar, the popping of a Covid-driven tech bubble and the continued impact of the Russia-Ukraine war have all combined to hurt stock markets,” Hurun Report chairman and chief researcher Rupert Hoogewerf said in a statement.

In the 12 months leading up to January, the U.S dollar appreciated against most major currencies. The British Pound and Japanese Yen were down 11% against the U.S. dollar, the Indian Rupee was down 9%, the Chinese Yuan was down 6% and the Euro was down 5%. For the wealthiest individuals whose assets are allocated outside of the U.S., a strong dollar means their net worth will be smaller in dollar terms.

The Hurun Global Rich List tells the story of the global economy through the stories of the world’s richest individuals. “Who’s up and who’s down highlights the trends in the economy,” Hoogewerf said.

Tech giants suffered the largest loss in the year. Jeff Bezos and his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott were down over US$100 billion in the year; Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were down a combined US$85 billion; and Elon Musk was down US$48 billion. Combined, those five people alone lost US$250 billion.

Luxury brands including LVMH and Hermès made significant gains despite cost-of-living worries, according to Hurun. Arnault, chairman and chief executive of LVMH, became the world’s richest person with an estimated net worth of US$202 billion, a 37% increase from a year earlier. The company’s stock was up more than 30% on the back of record US$15 billion in profits and US$86 billion in sales in the 12 months leading up to January, according to the Hurun report.

Bertrand Puech and family, owner of luxury brand Hermès, ranked third with a net worth of US$134 billion, up 31% from a year ago. The family members agreed not to sell their share of Hermès for at least two decades, in a move designed to fend off a hostile takeover bid from LVMH. The company posted a US$3.6 billion record profit last year.

Musk, 52, dropped to second place with a net worth of US$157 billion, a 23% decrease from a year ago due to a significant decline in Tesla’s value. The electric-car maker lost US$700 billion in value last year, and Musk sold US$23 billion of Tesla stock to fund his acquisition of Twitter last October.

The rest of the top 10 includes, in order, Bezos, investor Warren Buffett, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and ex-CEO Steve Ballmer, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, and Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, a India-based petrochemical, retail and telecommunications conglomerate.

China had the most billionaires with 969, followed by the U.S. with 691. “It’s easy to see why the U.S. and China are so important economically. Between them they have over half of the billionaires in the world,” Hoogewerf said.

India came third with 187 billionaires, followed by Germany, with 144, overtaking the U.K., which has 134 billionaires.

The top three cities where billionaires claimed their primary residences are Beijing, New York, and Shanghai, each with more than 100.

The entertainment and sports industries are generating more and more billionaires. Soccer stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo both reached billionaire status for the first time, together with golfer Tiger Woods, the NBA’s LeBron James, boxer Floyd Mayweather, and retired tennis player Roger Federer.

Basketball legend Michael Jordan has remained on the list since 2014.

Additionally, musicians Rihanna and Jay Z made their first billion last year, while Paul McCartney and Broadway composer Andrew Lloyd Webber created their fortune through music licensing.

New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson, who directed the Lord of the Rings films, broke through the US$1 billion mark. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld and actor and producer Tyler Perry also joined the billionaire club, according to Hurun.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • 1,078 billionaires saw their wealth increase, of which 176 were new faces. 2,479 saw their wealth decrease or stay the same, of which 445 dropped-off;
  • Russian retained eighth place in billionaire’s country of origin, with 70, down only two from last year;
  • In terms of industry, consumer goods (9.2%) and financial services are the top two sources of billionaires’ wealth;
  • 82 billionaires are aged 40 or under, and 56 of them are self made. The youngest self made billionaires are husband and wife team from China, Han Yulong, 38, and Lu Jianxia, 30, owner of Manner coffee;
  • 247 are self-made women billionaires; China dominated with 81%.


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Why Prices of the World’s Most Expensive Handbags Keep Rising

Designers are charging more for their most recognisable bags to maintain the appearance of exclusivity as the industry balloons

By CAROL RYAN
Tue, Mar 5, 2024 3 min

The price of a basic Hermès Birkin handbag has jumped $1,000. This first-world problem for fashionistas is a sign that luxury brands are playing harder to get with their most sought-after products.

Hermès recently raised the cost of a basic Birkin 25-centimeter handbag in its U.S. stores by 10% to $11,400 before sales tax, according to data from luxury handbag forum PurseBop. Rarer Birkins made with exotic skins such as crocodile have jumped more than 20%. The Paris brand says it only increases prices to offset higher manufacturing costs, but this year’s increase is its largest in at least a decade.

The brand may feel under pressure to defend its reputation as the maker of the world’s most expensive handbags. The “Birkin premium”—the price difference between the Hermès bag and its closest competitor , the Chanel Classic Flap in medium—shrank from 70% in 2019 to 2% last year, according to PurseBop founder Monika Arora. Privately owned Chanel has jacked up the price of its most popular handbag by 75% since before the pandemic.

Eye-watering price increases on luxury brands’ benchmark products are a wider trend. Prada ’s Galleria bag will set shoppers back a cool $4,600—85% more than in 2019, according to the Wayback Machine internet archive. Christian Dior ’s Lady Dior bag and the Louis Vuitton Neverfull are both 45% more expensive, PurseBop data show.

With the U.S. consumer-price index up a fifth since 2019, luxury brands do need to offset higher wage and materials costs. But the inflation-beating increases are also a way to manage the challenge presented by their own success: how to maintain an aura of exclusivity at the same time as strong sales.

Luxury brands have grown enormously in recent years, helped by the Covid-19 lockdowns, when consumers had fewer outlets for spending. LVMH ’s fashion and leather goods division alone has almost doubled in size since 2019, with €42.2 billion in sales last year, equivalent to $45.8 billion at current exchange rates. Gucci, Chanel and Hermès all make more than $10 billion in sales a year. One way to avoid overexposure is to sell fewer items at much higher prices.

Many aspirational shoppers can no longer afford the handbags, but luxury brands can’t risk alienating them altogether. This may explain why labels such as Hermès and Prada have launched makeup lines and Gucci’s owner Kering is pushing deeper into eyewear. These cheaper categories can be a kind of consolation prize. They can also be sold in the tens of millions without saturating the market.

“Cosmetics are invisible—unless you catch someone applying lipstick and see the logo, you can’t tell the brand,” says Luca Solca, luxury analyst at Bernstein.

Most of the luxury industry’s growth in 2024 will come from price increases. Sales are expected to rise by 7% this year, according to Bernstein estimates, even as brands only sell 1% to 2% more stuff.

Limiting volume growth this way only works if a brand is so popular that shoppers won’t balk at climbing prices and defect to another label. Some companies may have pushed prices beyond what consumers think they are worth. Sales of Prada’s handbags rose a meagre 1% in its last quarter and the group’s cheaper sister label Miu Miu is growing faster.

Ramping up prices can invite unflattering comparisons. At more than $2,000, Burberry ’s small Lola bag is around 40% more expensive today than it was a few years ago. Luxury shoppers may decide that tried and tested styles such as Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull bag, which is now a little cheaper than the Burberry bag, are a better buy—especially as Louis Vuitton bags hold their value better in the resale market.

Aggressive price increases can also drive shoppers to secondhand websites. If a barely used Prada Galleria bag in excellent condition can be picked up for $1,500 on luxury resale website The Real Real, it is less appealing to pay three times that amount for the bag brand new.

The strategy won’t help everyone, but for the best luxury brands, stretching the price spectrum can keep the risks of growth in check.

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