The fortunes of today’s super-wealthy have risen at a far greater rate than at the turn of the 20th century, when families such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast wealth. The report by UBS and accountants PwC said there was so much money in the hands of the ultra-rich that a new wave of rich and powerful multi-generational families was being created.
Billionaires made more money in 2017 than in any year in recorded history. The richest people on Earth increased their wealth by a fifth to $8.9tn (£6.9tn), according to a report by Swiss bank UBS. The world’s 2,158 billionaires grew their combined wealth by $1.4tn last year. More than 40 of the 179 new billionaires created last year inherited their wealth, and given the number of billionaires over 70 the report’s authors expect a further $3.4tn to be handed down over the next 20 years.
“The past 30 years have seen far greater wealth creation than the Gilded Age” the UBS Billionaires 2018 report said. “That period bred generations of families in the US and Europe who went on to influence business, banking, politics, philanthropy and the arts for more than 100 years. With wealth set to pass from entrepreneurs to their heirs in the coming years, the 21st-century multi-generational families are being created.”
“A major wealth transition has begun,” the report said. “Over the past five years, the sum passed by deceased billionaires to beneficiaries has grown by an average of 17% each year, to reach $117bn in 2017. In that year alone, 44 heirs inherited more than a billion dollars each. The calculation is simple. There are 701 billionaires over the age of 70, whose wealth will transition to heirs and philanthropy over the next 20 years, given the statistical probability of average life expectancy.” The 30 richest septuagenarians or older have a combined net worth of more than $1tn. UBS said the adage that the first generation makes the fortune, the second generation preserves it and the third generation squanders no longer applies. Some families have kept vast fortunes for five or six generations, and some heirs have even increased the overall fortune, the report said.
The richest person in the UK is Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the founder and chief executive of the petrochemicals company Ineos, who has an estimated fortune of £21bn.