Not all billionaires stay super-rich forever, but they usually last more than a few hours. The volatility of 2021—a year in which the business world was shaped by ongoing Covid-19 disruptions and a flurry of tumultuous public stock offerings—minted a slate of new billionaires whose tenure in the three comma-club lasted just a matter of months, days or even minutes.
A leading cause of this year’s wealth roller coaster was the poor performance of many companies following their stock market debuts. The booming popularity of SPACs, otherwise known as “blank check companies,” during the pandemic certainly played a role as they opened the floodgates for a rush of companies wanting to go public without the red tape of a traditional IPO. In many cases, promising starts were followed by cratering stock prices. Four of the ten billionaires highlighted below took their companies public via SPAC: Anthony Tan of Grab, JoeBen Bivert of Joby Aviation, Carl Daikeler of BeachBody and Anne Wojcicki of 23andMe—all became billionaires as the result of a SPAC merger, but a drop in the stock price pushed the value of their stakes below $1 billion.
But it wasn’t just SPACs that proved volatile in 2021. Half of the companies that raised more than $1 billion at IPOs this year were trading below their listing prices as of November, according to data from Dealogic cited in the Financial Times. Among the stocks that fall into this trend are dating app owner Bumble, which raised $2.2 billion at a $8.6 billion valuation in February; shares had fallen 50% as of December 14. The coronavirus pandemic also continues to hold outsized influence as the ebb and flow of restrictions and public attitudes throw different industries in and out of favor. The founders of at-home fitness equipment companies Peloton and Beachbody (also briefly billionaires) can speak to that.
These are among the tycoons who were briefly billionaires in 2021, listed starting with the shortest tenure as a billionaire (net worths are as of close of trading on December 15, 2021):
1. Anthony Tan
Grab cofounder and CEO
Billionaire for less than a day
Net worth: $600 million
Tan was a billionaire for a few hours on December 2 following the IPO of his company, Grab, the Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant. Grab went public via SPAC merger in a deal that valued the “super-app” (it offers online banking, hotel bookings and insurance services, too) at $40 billion and set the record for the world’s largest-ever SPAC merger. Tan’s stake in his six-year-old company topped $1 billion when shares opened trading at $13.06 apiece. But Grab shares quickly tumbled, losing about a third of their value by the end of the day to close at $8.75 per share. The stock has only continued to drop since and closed on December 15 at $7.14.
2. Tim Chen
Nerdwallet founder and CEO
Billionaire for less than a day
Net worth: $499 million
Another of 2021’s shortest-lived billionaires, Chen spent an extremely brief amount of time with his net worth at 10 figures when his company, Nerdwallet, went public on November 4. The personal finance company—used by people looking for advice on credit cards, mortgages and more—opened trading at $23.50 per share before briefly surging to $34.44. At that peak, the 31.7 million shares Chen accumulated as founder and CEO, soared to a value of $1.09 billion. But the stock closed the day at $23.40 and has not surpassed the $30 threshold since. Shares of the money-losing company closed at $15.46 each on December 15, giving the company a $1 billion market capitalization.
3. Jean Qing Liu
DiDi Global President
Billionaire for less than one week
Net worth: $466 million
Jean Qing Liu, the president of Chinese ride-hailing giant DiDi Global, and her husband, Will Wei Cheng, the company’s CEO and chairman, both became billionaires when DiDi listed its shares on the New York Stock Exchange in June, with estimated net worths of $1.1 billion and $4.4 billion, respectively. Less than a week later, a 27% drop in DiDi shares—catalyzed by the news of China’s regulator launching a probe into the company—knocked Liu’s fortune below $1 billion. The ride-hailing company’s situation took a turn for the worse in November when Chinese regulators reportedly asked it to formulate a plan to delist from the NYSE due to concerns about the leakage of sensitive data. DiDi’s stock is now down about 60% since its IPO. (Cheng is still a billionaire, with an estimated net worth of $1.9 billion.)
4. JoeBen Bevirt
Joby Aviation founder and CEO
Billionaire for less than three months
Net worth: $670 million
Bevrit’s short flight as a billionaire started with the August IPO via SPAC merger of his Santa Cruz, California-based electric air taxi company, Joby Aviation. Shares rose 6% to close at $10.90 on the first day of trading, making the 47-year-old Bevrit the first billionaire of the electric aviation sector, at an estimated net worth of $1.1 billion–all before the company released its first product. Though he’s been working since 2009 to develop an aircraft that can take off and land vertically, electric air taxi startups still have years to go before hitting the market. Joby said it plans to receive certification for its aircraft from the Federal Aviation Administration in 2023. The timeline has made it difficult for investors to maintain the same level of enthusiasm, leaving shares down 42% from the IPO as of December 15.
5. Carl Daikeler
BeachBody CEO and chairman
Billionaire for less than four months
Net worth: $320 million
Daikeler took his at-home fitness company, Beachbody, public via SPAC merger in June with hopes of seizing on the momentum of the pandemic. A merger with exercise bike maker Myx Fitness was intended to build the 23-year-old Beachbody into a strong competitor against the likes of Peloton. With fast growth in its subscription business and a library of on-demand exercise classes, investors bought into the vision for Beachbody—and Daikeler’s stake rose to $1.7 billion. But shares have plunged more than 80% since the SPAC merger as reduced coronavirus restrictions dried up much of the enthusiasm for fitness equipment companies. Beachbody’s third quarter revenues decreased 17% from the prior year, to $208.1 million, while losses increased to $39.9 million from $13.8 million a year ago. According to Forbes’ estimates, Daikeler stopped being a billionaire in September.
6. Anne Wojcicki
Billionaire for less than six months
Net worth: $765 million
After watching her company’s DNA tests become a phenomenon, 23andMe cofounder Anne Wojcicki took the 15-year-old genetics testing firm public in June and made herself a billionaire in the process. Her 99.4 million shares were worth approximately $1.3 billion when the company went public via SPAC merger; shares rose 21%, to $13.32, during the first day of trading. However, her 23andMe stake fell below $1 billion in value the following month, then rallied in early October and fell again in November as the stock plummeted amid lagging revenues, large losses and its struggle to transition into drug development. 23andMe’s shares are down 43% since the merger. (Note: Forbes has not been able to confirm the amount of Wojcicki’s other assets outside of her 23andMe stock, as a result of her 2015 divorce from Google cofounder Sergey Brin).
7. Anthony Hsieh
LoanDepot founder and CEO
Billionaire for less than eight months
Net worth: $649 million
Five years after pulling the plug on a different IPO attempt, Hsieh gave it another shot and oversaw the February stock market debut of California-based mortgage lender LoanDepot. Though marked down at the last minute with only 3.2% of its shares listed for public trading, the IPO boosted the net worth of Hsieh, the company’s chairman and CEO, to an estimated $2 billion thanks to his 54% stake. As of mid-December, the 56-year-old Hsieh is worth less than half of that amount as LoanDepot shares dropped to nearly 80% below their IPO price. The company has battled some bad press but is mostly struggling against broader housing market trends—namely fear over rising interest rates—which have hit LoanDepot harder than some of its larger competitors. Rocket Companies, the parent company of competitors Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage, has seen shares drop 30% since its IPO in August 2020.
8. Whitney Wolfe Herd
Bumble cofounder and CEO
Billionaire for less than eleven months
Net worth: $970 million
The cofounder and CEO of Bumble, Wolfe Herd became the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire when she took the buzzy dating app company public in February. The IPO—the second for a big dating app after Match Group’s 2015 debut—boosted Wolfe Herd’s 21% stake to $1.5 billion after shares opened trading at $76. However, the honeymoon period was disrupted by a November quarterly earnings report that showed a decline in overall user growth centering around its other dating app, Badoo, which is popular outside the U.S.. The red flags in the report sent investors into a frenzy and deflated Wolfe Herd’s net worth beneath the $1 billion mark, though she has hovered close to the threshold since, at one point even passing it again.
9. John Foley
Peloton founder and CEO
Billionaire for less than a year
Net worth: $707 million
Foley, the cofounder and CEO of Peloton, first appeared on Forbes’ billionaire list in April with a net worth of $1.5 billion. The exercise equipment company, which sells stationary bikes and treadmills paired with at-home workout subscriptions, benefited from a boom in interest early on in the pandemic, with sales surging 250% during the first quarter. But like many other pandemic favorites, business has struggled with gyms reopening. The Peloton CEO lost his billionaire status in early November as Peloton stock dropped 30% in one day following an earnings report with a weak forecast. The stock fell an additional 30% as of December 15, shaving even more off Foley’s fortune.
10. Jack Schuler
Healthcare investor and philanthropist
Billionaire for less than a year
Net worth: $757 million
Another newcomer on Forbes’ World Billionaires List in April, Schuler is a former president of Abbott Laboratories whose decades of investing in healthcare paid off big time early on in the pandemic. His net worth shot up to $1.1 billion following bets on pertinent new technologies, such as the Covid-19 testing developed by Quidel Corp. (one of the earliest companies to receive FDA approval) and Inspirotec, a device that can detect the virus’s presence in the air. But a sharp decline in the stock price of some of his investments—including Accelerate Diagnostics, Biodesix and Aspira Women’s Health—have since shaved more than $300 million off his fortune.