A list of the world’s richest people has been released by Forbes again (yawn), and what a surprise it’s a mix of the usual suspects. While I enjoy gazing at weird close-ups of Mr. Bezos and Mr. Zuckerberg as much as the next man, there are much more exciting things to do. Firstly, if you want to look at the world’s conventionally richest man then google William Gates III, because old Bill is giving it away as fast as he can and is still 2nd on Forbes’ list. Adjusted for inflation he was also considerably wealthier than the Amazon boss at his peak, but I digress.
For the majority of the list, and especially the tech billionaires, their wealth is tied to the transitory value of their shares. Given that most of them couldn’t even sell them all if they wanted to, it makes Forbes list quite redundant in practice. Today let’s do something much more fun and look at the real wealthiest people on the planet who have access to cash, can spend it aggressively and don’t have to worry about paying income or capital gains. Starting with the rocket man himself.
Yes, that’s right, the world’s most notorious dictator presides over one of the world’s poorest nations, but his personal situation is entirely different. As CCN.com reported recently, the North Korean leader is sitting on a massive stockpile of Cryptocurrency. At the market peak, this could have been worth many billions of Dollars but even today values at $650 million. This is only the Crypto he has stolen too! Who knows how much mining has been going on as there have been signs of activity from Pyongyang generating digital currency for a while.
Next, let’s look at official data as the GDP estimate for North Korea was around $30 billion. Bearing in mind that this man is absolutely 100% the owner of everything in his country, it makes more sense to look at his wealth and that of the country as one figure. Forbes made Kylie Jenner a billionaire by valuing her company at $900 million, so I’m just following their playbook here.
NK’s spending on nuclear weapons is estimated to be as high as $3 billion. Therefore we are supposed to believe they spend 1/5 of their yearly product on nukes alone. Of course not! North Korea operates one of the world’s biggest smuggling rings. We are talking meth, counterfeit money, weapons. You name it, and Pyongyang has its hands in it.
Because of Un’s complete control of his country and the fact that foreign aid mostly pays to feed his people, the Dictator can lay claim to all the cash. I’m giving him the entire GDP plus $5 billion for smuggling and his Crypto bag and taking off a chunk for his nuclear aspirations. If you think my approach is too loose, don’t think Forbes is any better, ask President Trump. Trump is also bullish that the brutal dictator could become even wealthier if he plays ball,
Next on the list is a Sultan. His Royal Highness is a bit different from Kim Jong because he operates legitimately on the world stage. His tiny nation the size of Delaware pumps out enough Oil and Gas to make them one of the most significant fuel producing countries in the world. Who benefits from this? Well, the man who is Minister of Defence, Finance and Head of the Military. Google his net worth, and Forbes will probably say $20 billion. This is ridiculously low.
Firstly, his car collection alone is rumored to be worth $4 billion. Take into account that most of the Oil money flows into his pocket every year and the consensus estimate seems to assume that he isn’t saving any money at all. Let’s face it, the Sultan probably doesn’t pay much income tax, and if he does, I can guess who’s head of the IRS.
The de-facto boss of one of the world’s wealthiest nations, the Crown Prince’s power has been on the rise for the last few years. Consensus estimates give him an approximately $20 billion slice of the more than $1.4 Trillion fortune. Wait. What? The guy who locked up nearly every wealthy and influential person in his country is only worth a few percents of those assets? With vast oil wealth and an increasingly firm grip on the throne, MBS has the power to designate money where and when he wants to. If Aramco ever goes public, we might have a more formal way of valuing him. For now, I’m calling it $1 trillion and leaving $400 billion for the rest of House Saudi to fight over.
Putin is worth $1.6 Trillion dollars. Ok, that estimate is high. It’s Russia’s entire GDP. But I’m taking it from the man himself here. Look at this quote from exiled Russian banker Sergei Pugachev,
“Everything that belongs to the territory of the Russian Federation Putin considers to be his. Any attempt to calculate [Putin’s net worth] won’t succeed. He’s the richest person in the world until he leaves power.”
When Communism falls, there is typically a vacuum of ownership because the state officially owned everything before its demise. What Putin has done is allow everyone else to scramble for ownership of Russia’s vast energy reserves while he realized controlling the Kremlin meant he controlled them, no matter how rich they got. Clearly, he doesn’t have access to all of the money at one time but again following Forbe’s Kylie Jenner approach I can add Putin’s ownership of his business into the valuation. Putin is Russia. Until that changes, he’s a trillionaire.
Officially the UK monarchy does an exceptional job of keeping its wealth estimates down. For political reasons the Windsors and their modern predecessors have based their public relations mantra around avoiding the limelight when it comes to their wealth. Forbes reckons they are only worth $88 billion. This would make the House of Saudi considerably more wealthy, understandable given their greater control over Saudi Arabia.
But what if I told you that her Majesty is the legal owner and sovereign head of Canada, Australia and the UK? Given the staggering amount of land alone that technically belongs to the crown, the wealth is mind-boggling. This NewsStatesMan America article best sums it up,
If the Queen could convert her landholdings into cash, she would not only be the richest individual on earth, but also the richest person who has ever lived. Another way she could achieve that, however, is by turning upside down the 13 tax havens of which she is both ruler and owner and shaking the cash out of them.
Practically every room of the Queen’s castles and palaces around the UK are filled with priceless relics from the former empire. Great Britain controlled most of the planet at one point and you don’t rule for many years without accumulating a few treasures. The Crown Jewels themselves are worth a few billion, but it’s the items you don’t see that could be worth even more. Don’t forget the UK had most of the Middle East under a protectorate at one point. The gifts from the leaders who were preserved by British rule would have been outrageous, and likely sit in dusty vaults lest they create a political issue.
The fact that a lot of the treasures were stolen in many nations eyes is irrelevant for our list. Kim Jong Un probably has some of my Bitcoin at this point, but I still gave him a spot. While practically speaking, the Queen’s access to this wealth would be almost impossible, QE2 is still the owner, ruler, and custodian of all this by law. Given that we adhere to the rule of law, Queen Elizabeth wins by a technical knockout.
“We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English”- William Golding – Lord of the Flies