Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • When you think of billionaires, you probably think of the people who are on the TV all

  • the time - the barons of industry and kings of tech who are controlling more and more

  • of the world every year.

  • But who actually is the richest today?

  • And are they truly the richest people who ever lived?

  • Or was there someone in the past who was much, much richer.

  • Bill Gates took a long time to build his fortune, growing his computer company Microsoft into

  • the top name in home computers since it was founded in the mid 70s.

  • And it's paid off, big time, with Bill having a current estimated net worth of $124 billion

  • dollars.

  • But some younger and hungrier billionaires have recently knocked him out of the top spot

  • that he held so long.

  • If you shop online, or stream online, or use the internet basically at all, then you've

  • probably made some money for Jeff Bezos.

  • The founder of Amazon, he's made his company an indispensable part of everyday life - and

  • that's made him the current titleholder as the world's richest man with a net worth

  • of just under 180 billion dollars.

  • But he may not be in the top spot for long, due to a wild card.

  • Elon Musk is probably the most colorful billionaire today, as the Tesla and SpaceX CEO is frequently

  • capturing headlines for his controversial tweets or appearing on Saturday Night Live.

  • But Tesla exploded in popularity in 2020, giving him a net worth of over 150 billion

  • dollars and briefly giving him the #1 spot.

  • But an unlikely rival may be the tortoise to their heir.

  • Bernard Arnault, the French chairman and CEO of Louis-Vuitton, heads up the largest luxury

  • goods company in the world.

  • But it's his canny investments that have made him and his family among the wealthiest

  • in the world.

  • With a net worth of around $150 billion, he doesn't get his rivals' headlines, but

  • he is consistently battling for the top spot with them - and at one point even sat at the

  • top of the list!

  • But just because one takes the top spot, doesn't mean they stay there.

  • Today, most of these billionaires' wealth is tied up in their stock holdings, which

  • means they're subject to the whims of the market.

  • An ill-advised statement, a proposed law from an angry Senator, or some bad press for the

  • company can send the stock tanking - and their bank account with it.

  • They, along with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, are the only people with

  • net worths above $100 billion.

  • But when you look at history, it's a very different story.

  • In actual dollar amounts, no one has ever reached these sums before - but that's because

  • inflation has made prices rise and the value of a dollar less than ever.

  • When adjusted, history has played host to some people who were far richer than anything

  • even today's titans of tech could even dream of.

  • These men ran powerful monopolies, they were emperors of industry - and in some cases,

  • literal empires.

  • Instead of their wealth being mostly in volatile stock holdings, they held massive amounts

  • of hard goods and land.

  • These were the actual richest men who ever lived in all of human history.

  • Inventing the most popular electric car made Elon Musk an icon - so imagine the wealth

  • of the man who invented the most popular car period.

  • Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, turned the car into something the

  • everyman could afford in the early 20th century, instead of just a luxury good.

  • His most significant innovation may have been the assembly line method of production, which

  • made his cars much faster and cheaper to produce - and in turn cheaper to buy.

  • Not only did he have an adjusted net worth of just under 200 billion, but his company

  • is still one of the dominant names in the automobile industry today.

  • But halfway around the world, another man dwarfed his wealth.

  • Mir Osman Ali Khan wasn't a businessman - he was a ruler, the last Nizam of the Hyderabad

  • State.

  • The ruler of a powerful region in British India, he ruled as a mostly-independent monarch

  • who technically answered to the British empire but was able to amass a huge fortune all the

  • same.

  • The key to his massive wealth?

  • The Golconda mines, which happened to be the only place in the world at the time where

  • diamonds could be found.

  • If you wanted a diamond - the ultimate status symbol - you had no choice but to go through

  • Mir Osman Ali Khan.

  • Not only did he have an adjusted net worth of 210 billion, but he was wealthy enough

  • that he could use the huge Jacob Diamond as a paperweight.

  • But back in America, two men proved that there were things more valuable than diamonds.

  • As America entered the industrial age, one of the biggest businesses became construction

  • - and at the end of the 19th century, one man stood to revolutionize the industry.

  • Andrew Carnegie's expansion of the American steel industry made him one of the most powerful

  • and richest men in the world, and he soon had major investments in the railroad and

  • oil industry.

  • An aggressive investor who had holdings around the world, he eventually sold his steel company

  • and devoted the rest of his life to philanthropy.

  • His articleThe Gospel of Wealthis still read today by civic-minded billionaires.

  • When his wealth was at its peak, his adjusted net worth was over 310 billion - but it was

  • almost all gone by the time he passed away in 1919, having been given to charities and

  • foundations, many of which still remain operational today thanks in no small part to his contributions.

  • But he wasn't even the most powerful American baron of industry.

  • Even today, the Rockefeller name is associated with wealth, and it all comes back to one

  • thing - oil.

  • John D. Rockefeller, the founder and chairman of the Standard Oil company, started out as

  • a bookkeeper and worked his way up to controlling 90% of all oil in the United States - at a

  • time when oil was the primary light source, before electricity had become mainstream.

  • His company was so massive that in 1911, the Supreme Court ordered that it be broken up

  • into thirty-four separate companies - some of which remain the most powerful oil companies

  • in the world.

  • Rockefeller's fortune grew to a staggering estimated total of over 400 billion dollars

  • when adjusted for today, and his heirs remained power-brokers - with one even serving as Vice

  • President.

  • The 19th and 20th century brought the first industrial power brokers - but even they still

  • weren't the richest ever.

  • No it was in eras long since gone by that had the richest people who ever lived.

  • In 15th century Germany, Jakob Fugger's father was a successful merchant - but the

  • son would obtain riches the father could never dream of.

  • A combination of the textile trade with Italy, investments in the banking and mining sectors,

  • and a marriage to German nobility allowed Fugger to become one of the wealthiest industrialists

  • in history.

  • He made savvy deals with the most powerful royal families in Europe, even engineering

  • the election of a Holy Roman Emperor who favored him.

  • That led him to amass a fortune that's estimated to be between 400 and 500 billion dollars

  • today - a record that may never be beaten by a businessman - and was estimated to be

  • a shocking two percent of all of Europe's gross domestic product at the time.

  • But there's still one way to get richer than even the richest businessmen - be a ruler.

  • In the era that we now look back on as the transition from BC to AD, there was no more

  • powerful position than the ruler of the Roman Emperor.

  • All of these Emperors were wildly wealthy, as their palaces showed, but no emperor was

  • richer than Augustus.

  • Rising to power at the conclusion of a chaotic era for Rome following the death of Julius

  • Caesar, with many battles over succession, Augustus' forty-one year reign came to be

  • known as Pax Romana, a golden, peaceful era for Rome - and he brought that era to many

  • areas of the world, massively expanding the empire and conquering many rivals.

  • There's no way to know exactly how wealthy he was, but some experts estimate his adjusted

  • wealth at over four trillion dollars - though that number has an asterisk beside it, because

  • much of that wealth came from conquering and owning all of Egypt.

  • But even Emperor Augustus would stare in envy at the wealth of the richest man who ever

  • lived.

  • It was the end of the thirteenth century, and while Europe was still in the medieval

  • period, Africa was full of thriving kingdoms that controlled the many trade routes across

  • the Saharan desert.

  • One of the most powerful of these kingdoms was the Mali Empire, which stretched from

  • the western coast of Africa to modern Timbuktu.

  • While the empire had many emperors before, the one who became famous worldwide for his

  • wealth was known as Mansa Musa.

  • He was wildly ambitious - and it paid off.

  • When Mansa Musa ascended the throne as the tenth Emperor of the Mali empire, it already

  • consisted of parts of five modern countries.

  • He quickly conquered twenty-four cities and their surrounding areas, and he knew an opportunity

  • when he saw it - and that opportunity was under the ground.

  • Under Musa, the Mali empire stepped up its mining efforts considerably, and they discovered

  • the largest stores of gold in the world at the time, along with a massive supply of salt.

  • These were two of the most valuable resources in the world at the time, and together they

  • made the Mali empire one of the world's biggest trading partners.

  • How wealthy was Mansa Musa?

  • He was so rich that he could single-handedly affect the world economy.

  • Musa was a devout Muslim, and one of the most important religious duties for any Muslim

  • who is able to is to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

  • When Musa set out on his journey in 1324 he was accompanied by a group of over seventy

  • thousand, but he also brought along a small portion of his massive riches.

  • His 12,000 slaves each carried four pounds of gold bars, and his heralds each had a gold

  • staff while his animals all bore bags of gold dust.

  • Along his journey, he shared his wealth with everyone he met, giving the gold bars to the

  • poor and trading gold for interesting items.

  • He would also give communities the gold they needed to build mosques.

  • But generosity can have a surprising downside.

  • Gold was one of the main currencies in use at the time, and the local economies were

  • not equipped for such a sudden massive influx of the precious metal.

  • The cost of gold was devalued from the sudden appearance of so much all at once, leading

  • to the cost of other items rising, causing major economic problems along Musa's route.

  • After his pilgrimage to Mecca was complete, Mansa Musa and his entourage returned home

  • the way they came - and were shocked at the impact they saw from their display of wealth.

  • He wound up borrowing back all the gold his entourage could carry at high interest, to

  • try to repair the local economies and maintain the Mali empire's good name.

  • While there have been fabulously wealthy people before, Mansa Musa may be the only one to

  • single-handedly derail a sector of the economy.

  • He may have been the richest man to ever live - but just how wealthy was he?

  • Modern estimates place his net worth at over four hundred billion dollars mostly in gold

  • and salt assets, which is more than any modern businessman has ever reached.

  • But while this is a rough estimate, many historians say his actual net worth may be incalculable.

  • Combining the land he held with the gold and other resources he owned puts him high on

  • the charts, but there is no way of knowing just how much of those resources remained

  • in the ground.

  • He controlled much of the world's supply of gold, and many experts believe he may have

  • been a multi-trillionaire, and certainly the richest man ever in solid assets.

  • But is he likely to keep that title?

  • It's unlikely that anyone will ever top his wealth in solid assets, given how wealth

  • has shifted to being determined by shares held in the stock market.

  • But today's billionaires are among the wealthiest people who ever lived - and for most of them,

  • their wealth is only growing.

  • As new innovations make their companies even larger, could any of them grow to the level

  • of historical billionaires and trillionaires?

  • The outlook is cloudy.

  • Bill Gates and Bernard Arnault are considered too cautious to more than double their net

  • worth, as they have proven, long-time business models that they're unlikely to shake up.

  • Elon Musk, meanwhile, may be a bit too much of a risk-taker.

  • While any one of his big ideas could send his stock price skyrocketing, it's just

  • as likely that his next tweet would tank it.

  • But Jeff Bezos is another story.

  • His company, Amazon, has grown by more than a third every year for the last five years.

  • When the world was turned upside down in 2020, he was ready to step into the chaos, and his

  • home delivery services became indispensable when most people didn't want to leave their

  • homes.

  • At his current rate of growth, experts believe he could become the world's first trillionaire

  • in only five more years - and from there, who knows?

  • If the government doesn't step in, the title of the richest man to ever live could one

  • day have a new titleholder.

  • For more on the world of the fabulously wealthy, why not watchMillionaires vs. Billionaires

  • - How Do They Live?”, or check outThe Deadly Curse of the Billionaire Family

  • for more on the dark side of near-limitless wealth.

When you think of billionaires, you probably think of the people who are on the TV all

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 wealth richest musa net worth gold empire

How Rich was the Richest Man that Ever Lived

  • 16 2
    Summer posted on 2021/06/29
Video vocabulary