A Timeline of the Richest Person on the Planet Since 1900


How many people have held the title of World’s Richest Person since the turn of the twentieth century? The answer may surprise you. The Madison Trust research team used the results of the Forbes World’s Billionaires List which has been ranking the billionaires of the world for decades, and charted out the net worth of the world’s billionaires every year between 1987 and 2023. They also included the net worth of the richest people on Earth every decade from 1900 through the mid-1980s, all of which were adjusted for inflation. Check out the chart below to see what the richest people in the world from a century ago would be worth today!

A Timeline of the Richest Person on the Planet Since 1900 - MadisonTrust.com IRA - Infographic

What Year Did Forbes World’s Billionaires List Begin?

Forbes list of billionaires, officially known as the World’s Billionaires List, was first released in 1987. Forbes annual list includes every single one of the world’s billionaires, ranked by their net worth. When Forbes released their first list of billionaires in 1987, it identified a total of just 140 billionaires around the world. As of 2023, the billionaires list has reached 2,640 people with a fortune worth ten-figures. According to Forbes, the planet’s billionaires are worth of total of $12.2 trillion!

Which billionaire ranked at the top of the list of the world’s richest people back when it was first released in 1987? That would be Japanese businessman, Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, who earned his fortune with real estate investments through the Seibu Corporation that he inherited from his father. By 1987, Yoshiaki Tsutsumi’s net worth had reached a high of $20 billion, or $53.6 billion in 2023 dollars. Then, almost twenty years after becoming the richest man in the world, Tsutsumi faced a series of scandals that dropped his net worth so low that he was taken off the World Billionaire’s List in 2007.

Who is the Wealthiest Person in the World?

As of 2023, Bernard Arnault is the wealthiest person in the world. Bernard Arnault’s net worth in 2023 reached $211 billion, making him the first person from France to hold the title of world’s richest person. Bernard Arnault is the founder of the world’s largest luxury goods company, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. LVMH manages 75 prestigious luxury brands; some of these well-known brands include Tiffany & Co., Christian Dior, Fendi, Marc Jacobs, Sephora, Bulgaria, and Princess Yachts. LVMH had a record year in 2023, earning $93.1 billion in revenue.

Who Are the Only People To Be Named the Richest In the World Since 1900?

Only twelve people can say they have been one of the richest people in the world since the turn of the twentieth century. Quite a few of these incredibly wealthy men held the title for several years in a row before being usurped by another billionaire. Although, none more than Bill Gates who was only knocked down from the top spot five times over two decades.

The 12 People that Have Held the Title of World’s Richest Person Since 1900

  • Bernard Arnault: 2023
  • Elon Musk: 2022
  • Jeff Bezos: 2018-2021
  • Bill Gates: 1997-2007, 2009, 2014-2017
  • Carlos Slim: 2010-2013
  • Warren Buffet: 2008
  • Sam Walton (i.e. Walton family): 1991-1996
  • Yoshiaki Tsutsumi: 1980-1990
  • J.Paul Getty: 1950-1979
  • Henry Ford: 1940-1949
  • John D. Rockefeller: 1910-1939
  • Andrew Carnegie: 1900-1909

Who Has Earned the Number One Spot on the Forbes Billionaires List the Most Times?

Bill Gates has earned the top spot on the Forbes Billionaires List a total of 16 times since it was first published in 1987. He held the title of richest person from 1997-2007 and again in 2009; although Warren Buffet earned the title in 2008. Bill Gates was the richest person in the world again for several years, from 2014 through 2017. What is Bill Gates’s net worth in 2023? Bill Gates’s 2023 net worth was $104 billion, a 19% drop from the previous year. Bill Gates’s net worth in 2022 reached $129 billion, his highest net worth ever.

Has A Woman Ever Been the Richest Person in the World?

No, a woman has not been named the richest person in the world as of 2023. The richest woman in the world is Francoise Bettencourt Meyers; in December 2023 she became the first woman in history to reach a net worth of $100 billion. How did Francoise Bettencourt Meyers make her money? She is the granddaughter of the founder of L’Oreal, Eugène Schueller, and inherited his fortune when her mother, Liliane Bettencourt, passed away in 2017. Liliane had been the world’s richest woman before her passing. Francoise’s level of wealth puts her in eleventh place on the 2023 list of the richest people in the world.

One method you can bank on rich people using to increase their wealth is through investing. There are quite a few different types of investments to look into if you’re interested in increasing your wealth. A Self-Directed IRA allows investors to expand on their choice of assets to profit from; real estate, private placements, and promissory notes are popular self-directed assets. Another method is to invest in different types of metals. You can invest in gold, silver, platinum, and palladium using Madison Trust’s Self-Directed Gold IRA.

The Complete List of the Richest People on the Planet From 1900-2023


Richest Person

Net Worth (in billions)

Net Worth in 2023 Dollars (in billions)


Bernard Arnault & Family




Elon Musk




Jeff Bezos




Jeff Bezos




Jeff Bezos




Jeff Bezos




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Carlos Slim & family




Carlos Slim & family




Carlos Slim & family




Carlos Slim & family




Bill Gates




Warren Buffet




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Bill Gates




Walton family




Walton family




Walton family




Walton family




Walton family




Walton family




Yoshiaki Tsutsumi




Yoshiaki Tsutsumi




Yoshiaki Tsutsumi




Yoshiaki Tsutsumi




J.Paul Getty

$6 (1976)



J.Paul Getty

$1.2 (1966)



J.Paul Getty

$1 (1958)



Henry Ford

$14.6 (1947)



John D. Rockefeller

$1.4 (1937)



John D. Rockefeller




John D. Rockefeller

$0.9 (1913)



Andrew Carnegie

$0.38 (1901)


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