From Caribbean islands to northern Europe, these nations finally have a billionaire citizen.
here are 87 fewer billionaires in the world this year, according to Forbes’ 2022 World’s Billionaires list. But even as countries like Russia, where the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions have sent markets plummeting, and China, which has cracked down on tech companies, are shedding billionaires, others are gaining them. That includes four countries that got their first-ever billionaires over the past year: Barbados, Bulgaria, Estonia and Uruguay.
The most high-profile newcomer among these is musician-turned-cosmetics mogul Rihanna, who became the first billionaire from the Caribbean island nation of Barbados in August. She also became the country’s 11th “National Hero” at a ceremony in the capital of Bridgetown in November, on the same day Barbados became a republic.
Others, such as Estonia’s Kristo Käärmann and Uruguay’s Andrés Bzurovski and Sergio Fogel, joined the list thanks to a boom in fintech companies that make it easier to transfer payments internationally. Käärmann cofounded London-based cross-border payments startup Wise in 2011 with fellow Estonian Taavet Hinrikus and became a billionaire in July after the company’s IPO on the London Stock Exchange. (Hinrikus was also briefly a member of the three-comma-club after the listing, but his net worth had fallen to roughly $700 million by March 11, the date Forbes locked in net worths for the 2022 list). Bzurovski and Fogel’s firm dLocal, which they cofounded in 2016 and which now helps giants such as Amazon and Netflix process payments from international customers, went public on the Nasdaq in June, making them the first billionaires to emerge from Uruguay.
The new billionaires from Bulgaria, on the other hand, have been building their fortunes for decades. Starting in the chaotic post-communist era of the 1990s, the Bulgarian brothers Georgi and Kiril Domuschiev founded an investment conglomerate that now spans companies in animal health, shipping, real estate and soccer.
There is now at least one billionaire in 75 countries. Here are the nations that got their first member of the three-comma club this year:
Net worths are as of March 11, 2022
Net worth: $1.7 billion
Source of wealth: cosmetics, music
Rihanna may be most famous for her musical career, but it’s her 50% stake in cosmetics brand Fenty Beauty—which she co-owns with luxury conglomerate LVMH—that earned her a spot among the billionaires. She also owns an estimated 30% of the Savage X Fenty lingerie line, which raised $125 million in January and is now reportedly weighing an IPO at a $3 billion valuation.
Georgi Domuschiev and Kiril Domuschiev
Net worth: $2 billion each
Source of wealth: animal health, investments
Georgi and Kiril Domuschiev got their start selling locally manufactured clothes and shoes after the fall of communism in Sofia, Bulgaria in the 1990s, before joining forces with a group of undisclosed investors to acquire newly privatized companies that had been state-owned. The brothers started investing alone in 2000, when they bought 54% of partially state-owned animal health firm Biovet; they eventually purchased it outright and transformed it into Huvepharma, now the world’s sixth-largest livestock health firm, with operations stretching from Lincoln, Nebraska to northwestern Italy. Their other holdings range from bulk cargo shipping firm Navibulgar to Ludogorets Razgrad, which became the country’s most successful soccer team under their ownership.
Net worth: $1.2 billion
Source of wealth: payments, banking
Käärmann and his fellow Estonian cofounder Taavet Hinrikus set up Wise—then known as TransferWise—in London in 2011, when the two émigrés decided they were “sick of losing money to [their] banks” each time they sent money to their native Estonia. Now, the firm processes nearly $8 billion in cross-border payments each month for its 12 million customers across 52 countries. When Wise went public in London in July 2021, Käärmann’s 19% stake was worth $2 billion and Hinrikus’ 11% stake was worth $1.1 billion; the stock fell by 39% from then through March 11, the day Forbes finalized valuations for the 2022 World’s Billionaires List.
Andrés Bzurovski and Sergio Fogel
Net worth: $1.5 billion each
Source of wealth: fintech
Bzurovski and Fogel both attended Universidad ORT in Montevideo, Uruguay and later teamed up in 2009 to launch AstroPay, a payments firm that helps consumers in emerging markets store funds online using a prepaid virtual debit card. In 2016, they joined forces with Sebastián Kanovich—another ORT grad they hired as AstroPay’s general manager in 2012—to found dLocal, which helps large multinational firms including Amazon, Netflix, Uber and Microsoft to handle cross-border payments from customers in 35 emerging markets. dLocal became Uruguay’s first unicorn in September 2020, when the firm raised $200 million at a $1.2 billion valuation, and went public on the Nasdaq in June 2021. The stock surged in the weeks after the IPO, making both CEO and cofounder Kanovich and early investor Eduardo Azar—both Uruguayans—billionaires as well; the stock had fallen 21% below the IPO price on March 11, meaning they both missed the cut for the 2022 World’s Billionaires List.
Note: Sergio Fogel is a member of Forbes Councils.
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From left-to-right: Kristo Kaarmann, Kiril Domuschiev, Rihanna