Falling fortune: Shopify co-founder Tobi Lütke drops from second to 11th on Canada’s rich list

Tobi new headshot
Tobi new headshot

The e-commerce swoon of 2022 has left Ottawa’s richest man a little lighter in the pocketbook.

After his personal fortune soared to more than US$10 billion last year on the strength of his company’s pandemic-fuelled surge, Shopify co-founder Tobi Lütke has seen his net worth cut in half in recent months, according to Forbes’ annual ranking of the world’s wealthiest people.

The native of Germany is worth an estimated US$5 billion as of Wednesday afternoon, Forbes says in its real-time tracking of the world’s billionaires. 

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While that still puts the software magnate comfortably atop the list of Ottawa’s richest people, Lütke’s ranking among Canada’s wealthiest elites has dropped from No. 2 last year to No. 11 this spring – well behind runaway leader Changpeng Zhao. 

The Chinese-Canadian businessman and founder of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, has a personal fortune of US$65 billion, according to Forbes. He leapfrogged last year’s wealthiest Canadian, Thomson Reuters Corp. chairman David Thomson, who now occupies second spot with an estimated net worth of US$49.2 billion.

Lütke, 41, is among Shopify’s leading shareholders, which accounts for most of his wealth.

While his fortune skyrocketed as the company’s shares quadrupled in value earlier in the pandemic, his net worth has taken a massive hit amid a slide that’s seen Shopify’s stock price plummet 70 per cent since late November. He now sits at No. 552 overall on Forbes’ list – 320 spots below his ranking from a year ago.

Lütke is joined on the list once again by a pair of fellow Ottawa billionaires: Claridge Homes founder and CEO Bill Malhotra and Mitel founder and serial entrepreneur Terry Matthews.

Malhotra, 72, jumped more than 700 spots on this year’s rich list to No. 1,645 overall, with a personal fortune worth an estimated US$1.8 billion – up from US$1.2 billion in 2021.

The native of India moved to Canada in 1971 and was the City of Ottawa’s chief structural engineer before founding real estate development firm Claridge Homes in 1986.

The company has since built more than 14,000 homes, including houses, condos and retirement residences, and is now one of the largest developers in the National Capital Region.

Matthews, meanwhile, is one of the capital’s foremost tech entrepreneurs. 

The 79-year-old native of Wales comes in at No. 1,818 on this year’s list with a net worth of US$1.6 billion, up from US$1.4 billion in 2021. Matthews is best known for launching telecom powerhouse Mitel with Michael Cowpland in early 1970s and founding data networking enterprise Newbridge Networks in 1986 before selling it to Alcatel for US$7.1 billion in 2000.

Matthews, who has founded or funded more than 100 companies, continues to be an active player in the Canadian tech scene through his Ottawa-based Wesley Clover investment firm. He also owns Celtic Manor Resort, a golf, spa and hotel complex in his hometown of Newport, Wales, that hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup and 2014 NATO summit.

As for the title of the world’s richest man? That honour has changed hands over the past 12 months, with Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk – whose estimated fortune now stands at US$219 billion – taking the crown from American businessman Jeff Bezos. 

Bezos, the founder and executive chairman of e-commerce behemoth Amazon, now sits in second place overall with an estimated net worth of US$171 billion, followed by French fashion magnate Bernard Arnault, the chairman of luxury goods retailer Louis Vuitton, at US$158 billion. 

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates (US$129 billion) and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett (US$118 billion) round out the top five.

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