Bill Gates reclaims title as world's richest

WASHINGTON — The surging price of Microsoft shares has returned US tech tycoon Bill Gates back to the top of Forbes magazine’s world billionaires list, with his $76bn beating out Mexico’s Carlos Slim’s $72bn.

The annual list, released on Monday, counted 1,645 men and women as billionaires, with an average wealth of $4.5bn and a collective wealth of $6.4-trillion, up $1-trillion from a year ago.

Mr Gates, co-founder of the US software firm, showed his staying power at the top — the world’s richest man for 15 of the past 20 years, according to Forbes — despite spending recent years giving away large sums of money to global health and anti-poverty programmes.

Mr Gates owns about 4.4% of Microsoft, making up less than 20% of his total fortune.

But the company’s share price has risen 25% over the past year, and, along with gains in other assets, he has added $7bn to his fortune since a year ago, according to Forbes.

Mr Slim, with a hand in telecommunications (América Móvil); mining, finance and industry (Grupo Carso); retailing; real estate and more across the Americas region, was worth $1bn less than a year ago, hit in part by sagging markets in South America.

In third was Spain’s Amancio Ortega, whose pockets have filled with profits from fashion — his hugely successful Inditex garment empire, parent of popular chains Zara, Pull & Bear and Bershka. More recently, Mr Ortega heavily invested in real estate in Europe and the US; his worth was put at $64bn.

A familiar cast of mega-wealthy filled out the rest of the top 10: US investment guru Warren Buffett ($58.2bn); software group Oracle’s founder and CE Larry Ellison ($48bn); US industrialists and brothers Charles and David Koch (each with $40bn); Las Vegas casino king Sheldon Adelson ($38bn); Walmart heiress Christy Walton ($36.7bn) and her brother Jim Walton ($34.7bn).

Together the $507bn held by the top 10 is larger than the entire size of the economy of Norway, Belgium or Poland in 2012.

US billionaires dominated the list, with 492, followed by 152 from China and 11 from Russia.

Forbes said two-thirds of them made their own fortunes, while 13% inherited. The rest took fortunes they received and built them up to the $1bn-plus level.

The biggest climb on the list in the year came from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. The public sale of the company’s stock more than doubled his net worth to $28.5bn, leaving him at number 21, just behind Hong Kong’s venerable tycoon Li Kashing and just ahead of Italian chocolatier Michele Ferrero.

Mr Zuckerberg, 29, led a group of 31 billionaires under 40 years old. The youngest, at age 24, was Perenna Kei, also known as Ji Peili — the 85% shareholder of real estate company Logan Property Holdings, which went public in Hong Kong in December. Her father, Ji Haipeng, is chairman and CE of the company.

Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of the oil giant’s king, was likely to remain unhappy with Forbes after blasting it last year for allegedly understating his wealth. Forbes put his fortune this year at just $20.4bn — enough for a ranking of number 30 — compared with $20bn a year ago.

Defending itself last year, Forbes said the prince "systematically exaggerates" his wealth.

Last week, Prince Alwaleed sent out a press release noting that the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a rival of Forbes, put his fortune at $30.5bn.

In the statement, he assailed Forbes for "use of incorrect data" and said its approach "seemed designed to disparage Middle Eastern financial institutions such as the Saudi stock exchange".


Comments (1)

Can we have our Zim. equivalent to the Forbes magazine,listing our own looting tycoons on a scale of 1 - 10

Mukanya - 5 March 2014

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