Musk Might Surpass Mansa Musa and Become the Richest Person in History

Mohit Oberoi, CFA - Author

Nov. 29 2021, Published 11:08 a.m. ET

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is currently the world’s richest person. However, the position of the richest person ever is believed to be held by Mansa Musa who was the emperor of the Mali Empire between 1312 and 1337. Can Musk surpass Musa to become the richest person in history?

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Unlike contemporary billionaires who get their wealth from the holdings in the companies that they founded, in the medieval period, emperors held the riches. While it's relatively easy to compute the wealth of billionaires now, it was much more difficult to compute wealth about 500 years ago.

Mansa Musa's net worth is hard to determine.

There are various estimates of Mansa Musa’s wealth, while some historians don't think that it's possible to put a number to his wealth. Celebrity Net Worth estimates that Musa's net worth is $400 billion in today’s terms after adjusting for inflation. This would make him the richest person in history.

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Andrew Carnegie is the richest person in modern history.

Meanwhile, in modern history, Andrew Carnegie, who founded U.S. Steel Corporation in 1901, is the richest person with an inflation-adjusted net worth of $372 billion. While we’re used to trillion-dollar companies now, U.S. Steel was the first company ever to command a market cap of $1 billion. John D. Rockefeller is the second-richest person ever with an adjusted net worth of $341 billion.

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Billionaires have been playing musical chairs with the top position.

In 2021, the title of the world’s richest person has been like playing a game of musical chairs. Jeff Bezos was the richest person at the beginning of the year but soon Musk took over the position. Musk reclaimed the title after Tesla stock fell. For a short period of time, Bernard Arnault took over the position. Currently, Musk is the richest person since Tesla’s market cap is now above $1 trillion.

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Bezos was the richest person for around three years after he snatched the title from Bill Gates. However, the tepid price action of Amazon stock has ensured that he had to relinquish the title of the world’s richest person to Musk.

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Elon Musk is the richest person ever in absolute terms.

In absolute dollar terms, Musk is the richest person ever. He's the only person whose net worth in absolute terms has surpassed $300 billion. No other person in history has even crossed $200 billion in absolute net worth. Currently, Musk’s net worth is around $290 billion.

Elon Musk

CEO Tesla

Net worth: $290 billion

There has been a shakeup in the billionaire rankings and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has strengthened his position as the world’s richest person. His net worth surpassed $300 billion at the peak. Musk has a realistic chance of becoming the world's first trillionaire.

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Will Musk become the world’s richest person ever?

Musk could end up being the world’s richest person ever. If Musk lists the many privately-held companies that he holds, his net worth would spike even more from these levels. Musk’s business empire is spread in emerging and high-growth industries like electric cars, renewable energy, and space travel.

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Chamath Palihapitiya of Social Capital thinks that the world’s first trillionaire will come from the clean energy industry. Musk would probably be the first name that comes to mind regarding clean energy. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jones, who has been a prominent Tesla bull, also thinks that Musk could become the world’s first trillionaire.

Tesla has a realistic chance of becoming the world’s largest company by the end of this decade. Then, we’ll probably see value unlocking in other Musk companies as well. Musk could end up being the richest person who ever lived much sooner than many people think.


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