World’s Richest Gain $26 Billion as Sanctions Hit RussiaCaleb Melby and Alex Sazonov
The 300 wealthiest people on Earth added $25.6 billion to their collective net worth this week as the U.S. government imposed economic sanctions on several Russian billionaires.
Amancio Ortega was the week’s biggest gainer, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The 77-year-old co-founder of Inditex SA, the world’s largest clothing retailer, added $2.8 billion to his fortune as the company rallied 2 percent to a one-month high. The company, which owns the Zara chain, said March 19 it plans to open more than 450 new stores this year. Ortega, the world’s fourth-wealthiest person, has a $63.1 billion net worth.
Russia richest people staged a comeback after losing more than $20 billion since the start of the Crimean crisis on Feb. 28, according to the Bloomberg ranking. The country’s 20 wealthiest citizens added $6.4 billion during the week.
“We didn’t see a shooting war break out over Ukraine, which means the stock market has come back as a result,” Walter “Bucky” Hellwig, a senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management, said by phone from his office in Birmingham, Alabama. “The sanctions were probably less than what was expected.”
Moscow’s Micex Index was up 6 percent for the week. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 1.4 percent to close at 1,866.52 in New York.
The U.S. and European Union expanded sanctions levied against Russians tied to Vladimir Putin this week in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Those targeted by the U.S. March 20 included oil-trading billionaire Gennady Timchenko and Arkady Rotenberg, a former judo partner of Putin whose companies won more than $7 billion of contracts for the Winter Olympics.
Timchenko sold his 44 percent stake in Gunvor Group Ltd., one of the world’s largest commodity traders, to partner Torbjorn Tornqvist, according to a company statement. The move came a day before the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the 61-year-old billionaire, who controls a $7.9 billion fortune.
“These are, frankly, actions that don’t cost us anything,” James F. Collins, a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who served as the US ambassador to Russia from 1997 to 2001, said by phone. “These are kind of a freebie. We are not taking on the danger of reaction that would threaten Boeing’s titanium supply.”
Vladimir Lisin, 57, chairman and owner of Novolipetsk Steel OJSC and the country’s 13th-wealthiest person, has lost more than $2 billion this month after the company fell 15 percent. He has a $9.9 billion net worth.
Alisher Usmanov, Russia’s richest man, lost $85 million this week. He’s sold shares of Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. and has bought stakes in Chinese technology companies, Ivan Streshinskiy, head of USM Advisors LLC, the billionaire’s asset-management company, said in a March 14 interview in Moscow.
“If you look at the trade restrictions that have been imposed so far, they have been pinpoint specific and are not anything that would restrict trade between Russia and the European Union,” Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Chicago-based BMO Private Bank, said in a phone call. “It’s a relief rally.”
Bill Gates remains the world’s richest person. The Microsoft Corp. co-founder gained $1.7 billion as the Redmond, Washington-based company reached a 14-year high. The 58-year-old has a net worth of $79.3 billion, more than 80 percent of which is held outside of software maker.
Carlos Slim regained his title as the world’s second-richest person, a week after he was passed by Warren Buffett. Slim’s America Movil SAB added 2 percent during the week. Slim, 74, has a $66.2 billion fortune, down 10.3 percent year-to-date, according to the Bloomberg ranking.