The US might still be home to the most billionaires in the world, but the rest of the globe is fast catching up. According to research compiled by Forbes, Europe is now home to over 500 billionaires. With 136 billionaires to its name, Germany boasts the most, swiftly followed by Russia with 117, then the UK with 55, Italy with 51, France with 42, Sweden with 41, and Switzerland with 40. Some have inherited their wealth, others have made it themselves. Either way, they’re all supremely rich, and at least a few are about to have their fortunes revealed to the world as we count down the 20 richest people in Europe.
20. Stefan Persson – Net Worth: $21.3 Billion
Kicking off our countdown of the 20 richest people in Europe is Stefan Persson, a Swedish billionaire who served as the head of fashion group H&M until his son succeeded him in May 2020. Despite standing down as chairman of the company (which was founded by his father Erling Persson in 1947), he remains its biggest shareholder with a 36 percent stake. His net worth as of 2021 is $21.3 billion.
19. Stefan Quandt – Net Worth: $21.6 Billion
Along with his sister Susan, Stefan Quandt inherited a large stake in BMW following the death of his mother, Johanna, the third wife of industrialist Herbert Quandt. In addition to serving on BMW’s supervisory board, Quandt serves as the company’s deputy chairman. Along with his interests in BMW, he also has holdings in the homeopathic company Heel, the digital identity and data security enterprise Entrust, and the logistical firm Logwin. His net worth is currently estimated to be around $21.6 billion.
18. Gennady Timchenko – Net Worth: $22 Billion
The 6th richest person in Russia and the 18th richest person in Europe is Gennady Timchenko. The U.S. government may not like Timchenko (in 2014, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions that banned him from entering the U.S. and froze any U.S.-based assets due to his close ties to Vladimir Putin), but with a net worth of $22 billion drawn from his stakes in business such as petrochemical producer Sibur Holding and gas company Novatek, it’s unlikely he’s that’s bothered.
17. Vagit Alekperov – Net Worth: $24.9 Billion
Up next with a net worth of $24.9 billion is Vagit Alekperov. After earning his stripes in the oil industry as a rig worker, Alekperov was elevated to the position of deputy energy minister under the former Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the union, Alekperov has made billions as the founding owner of Lukoil, the world’s second most powerful oil company in terms of reserves after ExxonMobil. In recent years, he’s also dipped his toes into the worlds of banking and media, and currently serves as one of the main stakeholders of IFD Kapital Group, a financial holding company that, according to Wikipedia, ranks among the top-100 largest Russian companies by volume of proceeds.
16. Leonid Mikhelson – Net Worth: $24.9 Billion
After graduating with a degree in Industrial Civil Engineering, Leonid Mikhelson began his career as a foreman with a construction company. He was later appointed Chief Engineer of Ryazantruboprovodstro and, in 1987, became General Director of Kuibishevtruboprovodstroy. After Kuibishevtruboprovodstroy, which had by that point been renamed NOVA, was privatized following the collapse of the Soviet Union, he continued as its Managing Director. In 1994, he became General Director of its holding company, Novatek. He now serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of ZAO SIBUR. His net worth as of 2021 is $24.9 billion.
15. Leonardo Del Vecchio – Net Worth: $25.8 Billion
Leonardo Del Vecchio was born in 1935 to a poor, working-class family in Milan, Italy. In 1961, he moved to the capital of the Italian eyewear industry, Agordo. Once there, he founded Luxottica s.a.s., and started selling spectacle frames. Luxottica now ranks as the largest producer and retailer of glasses and lenses in the world, employing over 77,734 employees over 8,000 stores. With a net worth of $25.8 billion, he ranks as the 2nd richest person in Italy and the 15th richest in Europe.
14. Vladimir Lisin – Net Worth: $26.2 Billion
Up next is Vladimir Lisin, the chairman and majority shareholder of Novolipetsk (NLMK), Russia’s largest steelmaker. According to bloomberg.com, the company produced 15.7 million metric tons of crude steel and had $9.2 billion of revenue in 2020 alone. In addition to his activities with NLMK, Lisin also draws a healthy income as the controlling stakeholder and owner of port facilities operator UCL Port and the shipping company VBTH. As of 2021, he’s worth an estimated $26.2 billion, making him the third richest person in Russia and the 14th richest in Europe.
13. Klaus-Michael Kühne – Net Worth: $26.3 Billion
Klaus-Michael Kühne is a German businessman and the honorary chairman and majority owner of Kühne + Nagel, an international transport company co-founded by his grandfather, August Kühne. He also runs Kuhne Holding AG and holds the majority stake in shipping company Hapag-Lloyd. With a net worth of $26.3 billion, he ranks as one of the richest men in Germany.
12. Dietrich Mateschitz – Net Worth: $26.9 Billion
While working with German cosmetics company Blendax, Dietrich Mateschitz was sent on a business trip to Thailand. While there, he stumbled on a local energy drink called Krating Daeng. Sensing a business opportunity, he teamed up with its creator, Chaleo Yoovidhya, to co-found Red Bull GmbH. Having successfully turned Red Bull into a world market leader in the energy drinks segment, Mateschitz now sits on a fortune estimated to be in the region of $26.9 billion.
11. Vladimir Potanin – Net Worth: $27 Billion
Until Alexei Mordashov came along and stole his title, Vladimir Potanin ranked as Russia’s richest man. He’s not anymore, but with a net worth of $27 billion, he’s still a long way from bankruptcy. He made his first fortune in the 1990s when he ran a controversial loans-for-shares program that helped well-connected Russians take control of state-owned companies following the collapse of the Soviet Union. These days, he’s keeping the billions rolling in thanks to his stakes in businesses such as the palladium and nickel producer Nornickel and pharmaceutical company Petrovax Pharm.
10. Susanne Klatten Net Worth: $27.7 Billion
Susanne Klatten is a German billionaire heiress who ranks as one of the richest women in the world thanks to a $27.7 billion fortune. When her father, Herbet Quandt, died, she inherited his 50.1% stake in the pharmaceutical and chemicals manufacturer Altana. As a member of its supervisory board, she’s credited with transforming it into one of Germany’s top companies. She also owns a 19.2% stake in BMW, and an 8% stake in SGL Carbon.
9. Alexei Mordashov – Net Worth: $29.1 Billion
Alexei Mordasho ranks as the richest person in Russia, and the ninth richest person in Europe. The child of two former Soviet steel mill workers, Mordashov made his fortune as the CEO and majority stakeholder of Cherepovetskiy Metallurgical Plant. He also holds controlling interests in the largest steel, coal, and mining conglomerate in Russia, Severstal, along with several other companies. In 2018, he transferred his shares in Nordgold and TUI to a holding company for his sons, Kirill and Nikita, to gain greater business experience. Taking into account the assets of the whole family, Mordashov is worth the grand sum of $29.1 billion.
8. Len Blavatnik – Net Worth: $32 Billion
With a net worth of $32 billion, Len Blavatnik ranks as the 8th richest person in Europe. A businessman and philanthropist with both UK and US citizenship, Blavatnik built his fortune through his conglomerate company, Access Industries, a privately-held multinational industrial group that invests in real estate, natural resources and chemicals, media and telecommunications, and venture capital business across the United States, Europe, Israel, and Latin America.
7. Giovanni Ferrero – Net Worth: $35.1 Billion
Giovanni Ferrero is the son of Michele Ferrero, the founder of the multinational confectionery corporation Ferrero. After completing his studies at the Lebanon Valley College in the US, he returned to Italy to join the family business. In 1997, he was appointed joint CEO of Ferrero with his brother Pietro. Following Pietro’s death in 2011, he became the sole CEO, relinquishing the title in 2017 after hiring Lapo Civiletti to take his place. In 2015, he took full ownership of the company after the death of his father. According to goldnews.com.cy, he’s worth $35.1 billion.
6. Dieter Schwarz – Net Worth: $36.9 Billion
As european-leaders.com writes, Dieter Schwarz is the son of Josef Schwarz, a German businessman who established the Schwarz-Gruppe grocery chain in 1930. Schwarz joined his father’s business after leaving school. Using the same business strategy as his biggest competitors, Aldi Nord and Aldi Sued, he rebranded as Lidl and turned the business into a discount chain with stores across Germany. After taking over the company on his father’s death, he began expanding internationally. Lidl now operates over 12,000 stores across Europe and the United States. A notoriously private figure (he refuses any kind of interview point-blank, no matter who asks, and has managed to escape any media recordings being taken of him. Only three photos of him are in public circulation and suffice to say, he’s never tweeted or Facebooked in his life), Schwarz is worth an estimated $36.9 billion.
5. Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr. – Net Worth: $39.2 Billion
Up next are Beate Heister & Karl Albrecht Jr., the children of Karl Albrecht Sr., who, along with his brother, Theo Sr. established the Aldi supermarket chain in Germany shortly after World War I. The chain now operates across much of Europe, as well as China and Australia. Following Karl Albrecht Sr’s death in 2010, his children inherited his fortune and stake in the company. Their joint net worth is $39.2 billion.
4. François Pinault – Net Worth: $42.3 Billion
In the 1960s, François Pinault started his first business as a wood trading company. The business grew quickly, and by 1988, had diversified into retail. After changing the company name to PPR, Pinault made the shift towards luxury and fashion in 1999, acquiring a controlling 42 percent share in the Gucci Group and buying the Yves Saint Laurent company outright. PPR has since acquired the French jewelry company Boucheron, the British fashion house Alexander McQueen, and Balenciaga. Now aged 84 years old, he and his wife are estimated to be worth in the region of $42.3 billion.
3. Françoise Bettencourt Meyers – Net Worth: $73.6 Billion
As per marketscreener.com, Françoise Bettencourt Meyers is a French businesswoman who, at various points, has headed up 6 different companies. In addition to serving on the board of L’Oréal SA, L’Oréal USA, Inc. and Agir Pour Laudition, she also serves as Chariman for Société Immobilière Sebor SAS, Fondation Bettencourt Schueller, and Financière L’Arcouest SASU, and Chairman-Supervisory Board of Tethys SCA and Téthys Invest SASU. With a net worth of $73.6 billion, she ranks as the third richest person in Europe and the richest woman in the world.
2. Amancio Ortega – Net Worth: $77 Billion
The second richest man in Europe is Amancio Ortega, a Spanish businessman who made his fortune as the founder and former chairman of Inditex fashion group, the parent company of fashion chain Zara. He began his business empire in 1975, when he established Zara along with his wife. By 2009, the list of companies under his control had extended to include Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Zara Home, Kiddy’s Class, Tempe, Stradivarius, Pull and Bear, and Bershka. Over the years, he’s plowed his wealth into building up an extensive property portfolio worth a reported $17.2 billion. His total net worth is now $77 billion.
1. Bernard Arnault – Net Worth: $201.6 Billion
The richest person in Europe (and, at the time of writing at least, the world) is the French investor, businessman and art collector, Bernard Arnault. Considered the ultimate tastemaker, Arnault sits at the head of LVMH, an empire of 70 brands that include Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, and Sephora. His wealth took a battering during the COVID -19 pandemic as sales of luxury goods fell through the floor. It now seems like people have regained their taste for designer suitcases and diamond rings, though, as on 5 August 2021, he regained his title as the richest man in the world after his wealth skyrocketed to $201.6 billion.