The World’s Billionaires (2009)(Forbes)

It’s been a tough year for the richest people in the world. Last year there were 1,125 billionaires. This year there are just 793 people rich enough to make our list.

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The world has become a wealth wasteland. Like the rest of us, the richest people in the world have endured a financial disaster over the past year. Today there are 793 people on our list of the World’s Billionaires, a 30% decline from a year ago.

Of the 1,125 billionaires who made last year’s ranking, 373 fell off the list–355 from declining fortunes and 18 who died. There are 38 newcomers, plus three moguls who returned to the list after regaining their 10-figure fortunes. It is the first time since 2003 that the world has had a net loss in the number of billionaires.

The world’s richest are also a lot poorer. Their collective net worth is $2.4 trillion, down $2 trillion from a year ago. Their average net worth fell 23% to $3 billion. The last time the average was that low was in 2003.

Bill Gates lost $18 billion but regained his title as the world’s richest man. Warren Buffett, last year’s No. 1, saw his fortune decline $25 billion as shares of Berkshire Hathaway (nyse: BRK.A news people ) fell nearly 50% in 12 months, but he still managed to slip just one spot to No. 2. Mexican telecom titan Carlos Slim Helú also lost $25 billion and dropped one spot to No. 3.

It was hard to avoid the carnage, whether you were in stocks, commodities, real estate or technology. Even people running profitable businesses were hammered by frozen credit markets, weak consumer spending or declining currencies.

The biggest loser in the world this year, by dollars, was last year’s biggest gainer. India’s Anil Ambani lost $32 billion–76% of his fortune–as shares of his Reliance Communications, Reliance Power and Reliance Capital all collapsed.

Ambani is one of 24 Indian billionaires, all but one of whom are poorer than a year ago. Another 29 Indians lost their billionaire status entirely as India’s stock market tumbled 44% in the past year and the Indian rupee depreciated 18% against the dollar. It is no longer the top spot in Asia for billionaires, ceding that title to China, which has 28.

Russia became the epicenter of the world’s commodities bust, dropping 55 billionaires–two-thirds of its 2008 crop. Among them: Dmitry Pumpyansky, an industrialist from the resource-rich Ural mountain region, who lost $5 billion as shares of his pipe producer, TMK, sank 84%. Also gone is Vasily Anisimov, father of Moscow’s Paris Hilton, Anna Anisimova, who lost $3.2 billion as the value of his Metalloinvest Holding, one of Russia’s largest ore mining and processing firms, fell along with his real estate holdings.

Twelve months ago Moscow overtook New York as the billionaire capital of the world, with 74 tycoons to New York’s 71. Today there are 27 in Moscow and 55 in New York.

After slipping in recent years, the U.S. is regaining its dominance as a repository of wealth. Americans account for 44% of the money and 45% of the list’s slots, up seven and three percentage points from last year, respectively. Still, it has 110 fewer billionaires than a year ago.

Those with ties to Wall Street were particularly hard hit. Former head of AIG (nyse: AIG news people ) Maurice (Hank) Greenberg saw his $1.9 billion fortune nearly wiped out after the insurance behemoth had to be bailed out by the U.S. government. Today Greenberg is worth less than $100 million. Former Citigroup (nyse: C news people ) Chairman Sandy Weill also falls from the ranks.

Last year there were 39 American billionaire hedge fund managers; this year there are 28. Twelve American private equity tycoons dropped out of the billionaire ranks.

Blackstone Group‘s (nyse: BX news people ) Stephen Schwarzman, who lost $4 billion, and Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts’ Henry Kravis, who lost $2.5 billion, retain their billionaire status despite their weaker fortunes.

Worldwide, 80 of the 355 drop-offs from last year’s list had fortunes derived from finance or investments.

While 656 billionaires lost money in the past year, 44 added to their fortunes. Those who made money did so by catering to budget-conscious consumers (discount retailer Uniqlo’s Tadashi Yanai), predicting the crash (investor John Paulson) or cashing out in the nick of time (Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberte).

So is there anywhere one can still make a fortune these days? The 38 newcomers offer a few clues. Among the more notable new billionaires are Mexican Joaquín Guzmán Loera, one of the biggest suppliers of cocaine to the U.S.; Wang Chuanfu of China, whose BYD Co. began selling electric cars in December, and American John Paul Dejoria, who got the world clean with his Paul Mitchell shampoos and sloppy with his Patrón Tequila.

Rank Name Citizenship Age Net Worth ($bil) Residence
1 William Gates III United States 53 40.0 United States
2 Warren Buffett United States 78 37.0 United States
3 Carlos Slim Helu & family Mexico 69 35.0 Mexico
4 Lawrence Ellison United States 64 22.5 United States
5 Ingvar Kamprad & family Sweden 83 22.0 Switzerland
6 Karl Albrecht Germany 89 21.5 Germany
7 Mukesh Ambani India 51 19.5 India
8 Lakshmi Mittal India 58 19.3 United Kingdom
9 Theo Albrecht Germany 87 18.8 Germany
10 Amancio Ortega Spain 73 18.3 Spain
11 Jim Walton United States 61 17.8 United States
12 Alice Walton United States 59 17.6 United States
12 Christy Walton & family United States 54 17.6 United States
12 S Robson Walton United States 65 17.6 United States
15 Bernard Arnault France 60 16.5 France
16 Li Ka-shing Hong Kong 80 16.2 Hong Kong
17 Michael Bloomberg United States 67 16.0 United States
18 Stefan Persson Sweden 61 14.5 Sweden
19 Charles Koch United States 73 14.0 United States
19 David Koch United States 68 14.0 United States
21 Liliane Bettencourt France 86 13.4 France
22 Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud Saudi Arabia 54 13.3 Saudi Arabia
23 Michael Otto & family Germany 65 13.2 Germany
24 David Thomson & family Canada 51 13.0 Canada
25 Michael Dell United States 44 12.3 United States



26 Donald Bren United States 76 12.0 United States
26 Sergey Brin United States 35 12.0 United States
26 Larry Page United States 36 12.0 United States
29 Steven Ballmer United States 53 11.0 United States
29 Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor & family United Kingdom 57 11.0 United Kingdom
29 George Soros United States 78 11.0 United States
32 Paul Allen United States 56 10.5 United States
32 Kwok family Hong Kong NA 10.5 Hong Kong
34 Anil Ambani India 49 10.1 India
35 Abigail Johnson United States 47 10.0 United States
35 Susanne Klatten Germany 46 10.0 Germany
35 Ronald Perelman United States 66 10.0 United States
35 Hans Rausing Sweden 83 10.0 United Kingdom
39 Birgit Rausing & family Sweden 85 9.9 Switzerland
40 Michele Ferrero & family Italy 82 9.5 Monaco
40 Mikhail Prokhorov Russia 43 9.5 Russia
40 Jack Taylor & family United States 86 9.5 United States
43 Mohammed Al Amoudi Saudi Arabia 63 9.0 Saudi Arabia
43 Anne Cox Chambers United States 89 9.0 United States
43 Carl Icahn United States 73 9.0 United States
43 George Kaiser United States 66 9.0 United States
43 Lee Shau Kee Hong Kong 81 9.0 Hong Kong
43 Forrest Mars Jr United States 77 9.0 United States
43 Jacqueline Mars United States 69 9.0 United States
43 John Mars United States 72 9.0 United States

#1 William Gates III


AP Photo/Kevin P. Casey

Net Worth:$40.0 bil
Fortune:self made
Source:Microsoft
Age:53
Country Of Citizenship:United States
Residence:Medina, Washington
Industry:Software
Education:Harvard University, Drop Out,
Marital Status:married, 3 children

Software visionary regains title as the world’s richest man despite losing $18 billion in the past 12 months. Stepped down from day-to-day duties at Microsoft last summer to devote his talents and riches to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Organization’s assets were $30 billion in January; annual letter lauds endowment manager Michael Larson for limiting last year’s losses to 20%. Gates decided to increase donations in 2009 to $3.8 billion, up 15% from 2008. Dedicated to fighting hunger in developing countries, improving education in America’s high schools and developing vaccines against malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. Appointed Microsoft Office veteran Jeffrey Raikes chief exec of Gates Foundation in September. Gates remains Microsoft chairman. Sells shares each quarter, redeploys proceeds via investment vehicle Cascade; more than half of fortune invested outside Microsoft. Stock down 45% in past 12 months. “Creative capitalist” wants companies to match profitmaking with doing good.

#2 Warren Buffett


AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Net Worth:$37.0 bil
Fortune:self made
Source:Berkshire Hathaway
Age:78
Country Of Citizenship:United States
Residence:Omaha, Nebraska
Industry:Investments
Education:University of Nebraska Lincoln, Bachelor of Arts / Science, Columbia University, Master of Science
Marital Status:widowed, remarried, 3 children

Last year America’s most beloved investor was the world’s richest man. This year he has to settle for second place after losing $25 billion in 12 months. Shares of Berkshire Hathaway down 45% since last March. Injected billions of dollars into Goldman Sachs, GE in exchange for preferred stock last fall; propped up insurance firm Swiss Re in February with $2.6 billion infusion. Admits he made some “dumb” investment mistakes in 2008. Upbeat about America’s future: “Our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time. It has unleashed human potential as no other system has, and it will continue to do so.” Scoffs at Wall Street’s over-reliance on “history-based” models: “If merely looking up past financial data would tell you what the future holds, the Forbes 400 would consist of librarians.” Son of Nebraska politician delivered newspapers as a boy. Filed first tax return at age 13, claiming $35 deduction for bicycle. Studied under value investing guru Benjamin Graham at Columbia. Took over textile firm Berkshire Hathaway 1965. Today holding company invested in insurance (Geico, General Re), jewelry (Borsheim’s), utilities (MidAmerican Energy), food (Dairy Queen, See’s Candies). Also has noncontrolling stakes in Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo.

#3 Carlos Slim Helu & family

Net Worth:$35.0 bil
Fortune:self made
Source:telecom
Age:69
Country Of Citizenship:Mexico
Residence:Mexico City
Industry:Telecommunications
Education:NA,
Marital Status:widowed, 6 children

Economic downturn and plunging peso shaved $25 billion from the fortune of Latin America’s richest man. Global recession testing his ability to live up to the principles he sets for his employees: “Maintain austerity in times of fat cows.” Son of a Lebanese immigrant bought fixed line operator Telefonos de Mexico (Telmex) in 1990; now controls 90% of Mexico’s telephone landlines. Would be a billionaire based on his dividends alone. Biggest holding: $16 billion stake in America Movil, Latin America’s largest mobile phone company with 173 million customers. America Movil and Telmex reportedly planning to jointly invest $4 billion to bolster telecom infrastructure in Latin America. Buying up cheap media, energy and retail assets. Last year took stakes in New York Times Co., former billionaire Anthony O’Reilly’s Independent News & Media and Bronco Drilling; also increased position in Saks. Baseball statistics aficionado, art collector.

#4 Lawrence Ellison


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Net Worth:$22.5 bil
Fortune:self made
Source:Oracle
Age:64
Country Of Citizenship:United States
Residence:Redwood City, California
Industry:Software
Education:University of Illinois, Drop Out,
Marital Status:married, 2 children

Database titan continues to engulf the competition; Oracle has racked up 49 acquisitions in the past 4 years. Bought BEA Systems for $8.5 billion last year. Still sitting on $7 billion in cash. Revenues up 11% to $10.9 billion in the six months ended November 30; profits also up 11% to $2.4 billion. Stock down 25% in past 12 months. Invested $125 million in Web software outfit Netsuite; took public in 2007, stock has fallen 80% since. His shares still worth $300 million. Chicago native studied physics at U. of Chicago, didn’t graduate. Started Oracle in 1977. Public 1986, a day before Microsoft. Owns 453-foot Rising Sun; built a smaller leisure boat because superyacht is hard to park. Squabbling in court with Swiss boating billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli over terms of next America’s Cup. Recently unveiled hulking 90-foot trimaran he intends to use to win it.

#5 Ingvar Kamprad & family


AP Photo/Heribert Proepper

Net Worth:$22.0 bil
Fortune:self made
Source:Ikea
Age:83
Country Of Citizenship:Sweden
Residence:Lausanne
Industry:Retail
Education:NA,
Marital Status:married, 4 children

Peddled matches, fish, pens, Christmas cards and other items by bicycle as a teenager. Started selling furniture in 1947. Opened first Ikea store 50 years ago; stores’s name is a combination of initials of his first and last name, his family farm and the nearest village. Retired in 1986; company’s “senior adviser” still reportedly works tirelessly on his brand. Discount retailer now sells 9,500 items in 36 countries; prints catalog in 27 languages. Revenues up 7% to $27.4 billion in fiscal year 2008. Opened tenth store in China this February; planning to open first in Dominican Republic later this year. Three sons all work at the company. Thrifty entrepreneur flies economy class, frequents cheap restaurants and furnishes his home mostly with Ikea products.
More information can be read at: http://www.forbes.com

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