Co-founder of Tesla Motors Elon Musk (File photo)

Elon Musk is now richer than Mark Zuckerberg

Co-founder of Tesla Motors Elon Musk (File photo)

Elon Musk is now the third-richest person in the world.

Musk passed Facebook Inc co-founder Mark Zuckerberg Monday as shares of Tesla Inc continued their unrelenting rally after undergoing a forward stock split. Musk is now worth US$115.4 billion compared with US$110.8 billion for Zuckerberg, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is now worth US$110.8 billion. (File photo)

Also Monday, Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife MacKenzie Scott became the world’s richest woman, passing L’Oreal SA heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers. Scott, 50, who received a four per cent stake in Amazon.com Inc as part of her divorce from founder Bezos, is now worth US$66.4 billion.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos with his now ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott. (File photo)

Musk, 49, has seen a meteoric rise in his wealth, with his net worth growing by US$87.8 billion this year as Tesla shares surged almost 500 per cent. Also helpful: an audacious pay package — the largest corporate pay deal ever struck between a chief executive officer and a board of directors — that could yield him more than US$50 billion if all goals are met.

Tesla, a favourite among amateur investors on online trading firm Robinhood Financial, has been one of the largest beneficiaries of the boom in retail investing during pandemic lockdowns. At one point last month, almost 40,000 Robinhood accounts added Tesla shares during a single four-hour span. And the trend isn’t limited to the US: South Korean retail investors have piled into Tesla this year and hold about a one per cent stake in the American automaker.

Tesla’s US$464-billion market value now exceeds that of retail behemoth Walmart Inc, the largest company in the US by revenue.

A car stops at a Tesla charging station. (File photo)

Last week, Musk joined Zuckerberg, Bezos and Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates in the rarefied “centibillionaire” club as tech stocks rose.

The heady pace of wealth accumulation in recent months is in stark contrast to the state of the global economy. Growth has slumped sharply since the pandemic began with companies laying off millions of workers and consumer demand cratering. The brunt of economic pain has been borne by young and lower-wage workers whose jobs are typically more vulnerable to COVID-19-related lay-offs.

Bill Gates (Photo: CNBC)

The rising income inequality has provoked sharp responses from many progressive politicians and critics on the left. American Senator Bernie Sanders this month introduced legislation to tax “extreme wealth gains” during the pandemic.

US Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, representing the state of Vermont, speaking during the Democratic presidential primary debate at the Charleston Gaillard Center on February 25, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Musk still has a long way to become the world’s richest person. Bezos is worth more than US$200 billion.

— Bloomberg