We all marveled at the money-making magic of Steam last year when Forbes ranked Valve boss Gabe Newell as one of the wealthiest people in the US. But do you know who's even wealthier? According to the most recent Bloomberg Billionares Index, that would be Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney.
It's not even really close. Bloomberg pegs Newell's current net worth at $4.34 billion, good enough for 385th place on the list of the world's 500 richest people, while Sweeney weighs in with $7.16 billion, putting him at position 192. The difference is largely academic—finding a surprise $20 in your wallet doesn't have quite the same impact once you've moved past your first billion—and neither of them are anywhere near to spitting distance of Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and the other mega-zillionaires at the top of the list.
But it's an interesting reflection of Fortnite's runaway success that Sweeney hasn't just surpassed Newell's wealth, but that this is his debut appearance on the billionaire's breakdown. Which isn't to say that he wasn't rich as hell before now—Epic was a successful studio long before Fortnite, and Sweeney and his partners sold a 40 percent stake in the company to Tencent in 2012 for $825 million—but this moves him, very suddenly, into a whole new realm of "too much money."
To be clear, Bloomberg's numbers are estimates based on numerous factors and of varying levels of confidence—in Sweeney's case, 3/5 stars. "The majority of Sweeney's fortune stems from his stake in Epic Games, the video game developer he founded in 1991. The company's valuation is based on an October 2018 transaction where a consortium of investors, including KKR and Lightspeed Venture Partners, acquired a stake at a valuation of almost $15 billion," Bloomberg explained in its brief profile.
"Following the transaction, Sweeney's stake in the business is calculated at 44.7 percent. Before this, he was estimated to own 51 percent, based on the company's confirmation that Sweeney was the controlling shareholder. The analysis assumes that half the investment was funded through the sale of shares by existing shareholders—primarily Sweeney—and half through the issuance of new shares."
Newell's net worth estimate is a little shakier because, since Valve is a privately held company, he doesn't have to tell anybody anything, and generally doesn't. But Bloomberg's estimate, if accurate, paints an alarming picture: Newell's net worth has been on a slow but relatively steady climb since late 2016, to a peak of $7 billion in August 2018, but by the end of the year it had crashed to $4 billion.
Bloomberg's confidence rating in its estimate of Newell's net worth is 2/5 stars, which its methodology statement says means that "a substantial portion of the fortune is held in unknown investments, or assumptions have been made to calculate revenue, financial results or ownership interests. Information provided in the past can no longer be verified, or the analysis uses data drawn almost entirely from media reports. The billionaire or their representatives won't comment on the net worth calculation, or the valuation relies on information they provide that can't be verified independently."
Sweeney, through an Epic rep, declined to comment on his net worth; Valve simply ignored requests for comment.