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‘People right now are afraid’: World’s richest take a $1.5 trillion hit

“People right now are afraid,” said Charles Doraine, president of Doraine Insurance Group and a former wealth manager. “Things are being introduced to the world of investing that have never been there before – health risks. This is stuff beyond the market’s normal fears and concerns.”

The anxieties of the super rich are evidenced by a spike in demand for private jets, cancelled charity galas and an exodus to secluded second homes. Global measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 have introduced restrictions rarely experienced by a globe-trotting elite for whom access and services are seldom constrained. On Thursday, wealthy travellers scrambled to book private flights to the US from Europe ahead of President Donald Trump’s recently-announced travel restrictions.

Trump’s rhetoric-laden address to the nation on Wednesday evening did little to calm investors, contributing to a further slide in stocks and trimming the wealth of some of his major supporters.

Oklahoma fracking mogul Harold Hamm dropped off the index Monday after losing almost half his net worth, squeezed by the tumbling price of oil. Sheldon Adelson, majority owner of Las Vegas Sands., the world’s largest casino operator, has lost $US11.7 billion since the start of the year as gaming floors emptied and trade shows were cancelled. That’s more than a quarter of his net worth.

Carnival Chairman Micky Arison dropped six spots on the billionaires index Thursday after shares of the world’s biggest cruise operator plunged 31 per cent to a 23-year low. The company announced it was suspending all voyages by its Princess Cruises line for two months.

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Individuals higher up the ranks sustained staggering one-day losses. Luxury titan Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH, lost $US9.5 billion and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’s net worth fell by $US8.1 billion. Tech titan Bill Gates saw his fortune dwindle by $US7 billion. A total of 53 billionaires saw their fortunes drop to the lowest since joining the index.

Brazil’s fortunes were particularly hard hit, both by plunging stock prices and a weakening real. Guilherme Benchimol, founder of XP, ceased to be a billionaire after shares of the Sao Paulo-based brokerage fell 34 per cent below its December initial public offering price.

Meanwhile, Russia’s wealthiest two dozen people are down $US65 billion this year, partly because of President Vladimir Putin’s oil price war with Saudi Arabia.

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