2015 was a bad year to be a billionaire

Collective worldwide billionaire wealth fell $300B between 2014 and 2015

Illustration by Lexi Pilgrim for The Real Deal
Illustration by Lexi Pilgrim for The Real Deal

It’s tough out there for the world’s billionaires — relatively speaking, at least.

In the first decline since the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the collective wealth of the world’s billionaires dropped to $5.1 trillion last year from $5.4 trillion in 2014, according to new research released by UBS and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The average wealth of the group fell by $300 million to $3.7 billion, and those whose money is in the materials, industrial and retail sectors saw the biggest drops, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The report analyzed data from 1,397 billionaires and included more than 20 interviews with advisers and around 30 with billionaires and their heirs.

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“The Second Gilded Age has paused,” according to the study cited by the Journal. “Wealth transfer and commodity price deflation are putting billionaires under pressure at a time when technology and finance, the motors of great wealth creation, have stalled.”

But better times may be on the horizon, the report found. It predicts financial asset performance and economic growth will “create a favorable environment for billionaire wealth creation in 2016 and 2017.”

The number of billionaires is also on the rise. While 160 people dropped down to become mere multi-millionaires last year, the billionaire ranks actually welcomed 210 new people to the group. Most of the new billionaires — 113 in total — came from Asia, which is “creating one new billionaire every three days,” according to the report. The billionaire population in U.S. is not growing anywhere near as quickly, with just five new billionaires added last year.

Still, New York City has more billionaires than any other city in the world. Forbes found that, as of March this year, 79 billionaires live in the Big Apple. While most have made their money in media and finance, 11 of them developed — or inherited — real estate fortunes, as The Real Deal reported in April.

New York City’s billionaires include Stephen Ross of the Related Companies, Leonard Stern of the Hartz Group, and Jerry Speyer of Tishman Speyer. [WSJ] — Miriam Hall

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