The fantastic fates of fictional characters are being outstripped by the assets of flesh-and-blood tycoons. Should we fear this detonation of super-wealth?
Every so often Forbes, the publication closely associated with America’s corporate upper-clas, compiles its Fictional Fifteen– a map of the wealthiest characters in movie and literature, to complement its well-known annual list of the world’s wealthiest individuals.
After carefully assessing the assets of the likes of Bruce Wayne and Montgomery Burns, its most recent analysis concluded that Scrooge McDuck– mining tycoon and uncle of Donald Duck- was top, with an estimated net worth of $65 bn, narrowly beating the dragon Smaug.
But perhaps the most remarkable feature of an wholly remarkable listing is rarely noted: the degree to which fictional billionaires have lost ground to real-life ones. According to Forbes, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon with an estimated fortune of $98 bn, has recently overtaken Bill Gates to become the world’s richest human. It seems we have reached the degree whenever there is people in the world richer than we were able imagining.
Amazon’s share price has risen five-fold in as many years. If it continues at anything like this rate, Bezos, still merely 53 years old, can expect to be worth hundreds of billions over the next decade. Indeed, a century since John D Rockefeller became the world’s first recorded billionaire, the prospect of the world’s first-ever trillionaire is now a serious possibility.
A trillion- at least by American guessing– is a thousand billion dollars, or roughly the GDP of Mexico, and Bezos is leading a pack made up not only of technologists but likewise energy, finance, mining and retail tycoons from across North America, Europe and Asia. Their rankings and fortunes fluctuate daily in line with inventory and commodity costs, but even if Bezos doesn’t get there we can be reasonably certain that the world’s first trillionaire will be male- there are only a dozen women in Forbes’ top hundred list, and none in the top 10.
Not so long ago, a trillionaire would have seemed almost as improbable as a mine-owning duck, and many were unconvinced when Oxfam speculated in January that it could happen within the next 25 years. But the last 12 months alone have visualized the German, US and UK stock markets all hitting record levels, along with robust economic growth and a resurgence in oil and commodities values. Already, based on the results of its market capitalisation, Apple is close to becoming the world’s first trillion-dollar company, and all this is before Donald Trump’s fiscal reforms take effect, slashing tax rates for the very wealthiest.