Millionaires & Billionaires

Biggest billionaire losers in 2014? The Russians

A record 1,826 billionaires made the Forbes World's Billionaires list. But more than 100 fell off the list—with the largest number from Russia.

According to Forbes, 138 people lost their billionaire status in 2014. There were losers in the oil sector, with the decline in oil prices. There were losers from the slowdown in emerging markets, whether it was China, Brazil or the Middle East.

Forbes said the person with the biggest drop-off in wealth was William Erbey, the mortgage-service magnate who saw his fortune fall from $2.5 billion to $556 million in 2014. Years of regulatory investigations took its toll on the stock price of Ocwen Financial, the company he founded, and forced Erbey out of his role as chairman.

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In terms of countries, by far the biggest single billionaire loser was Russia.

According to Forbes, 28 Russians lost their billionaire status in 2014, the most of any country. The decline in oil prices, the crashing Russian economy and Western sanctions have all combined to create a massive oligarch-destruction machine.

Yuri Kovalchuk
Alexander Zemlianichenko | Reuters

Among the big losers was Yuri Kovalchuk, the largest single shareholder of Bank Rossiya and a man the U.S. Treasury Department identified as "the personal banker" for Vladimir Putin. Once worth over $1.4 billion, his fortune is now down to $750 million, according to Forbes.

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Credit-card magnate Oleg Tinkov saw his fortune fall by $930 million as the value of his Tinkov Credit Systems, dropped more than 85 percent since its late 2013 initial public offering.

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A Russian ban on some Western food imports cost supermarket magnates Dmitry Korzhev and Dmitry Troitsky more than $300 million each.

It was a tough political year for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, but an even tougher financial one as the country's economy and currency cratered. He saw his net worth clipped by nearly half, from $1.3 billion to $730 million.

Even the Russians who remain billionaires have lost big. Bloomberg reported in December that the 20 richest Russians lost a combined $62 billion in 2014—three times the GDP of Afghanistan.

Leonid Mikhelson, CEO of Russia's second-biggest gas producer, saw his fortune fall by $8.7 billion in 2014, while commodity-trader Gennady Timchenko saw his fortune fall by $7.8 billion, according to Bloomberg.