Microsoft founder chairman Bill Gates has regained the top spot in Forbes magazine’s annual ranking of billionaires worldwide, even as the worldwide economic recession slashed the number of billionaires to 793 from 1,125 last year. It was the first time since 2003 that the number of people on the world’s richest list declined, and the biggest drop since the magazine began the ranking 23 years ago.
Gates, 53, had a net worth of US$40bn, down from US$58bn in 2008. Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett, 78 – who last year ended Gates’s 13 year reign atop the Forbes’ richest list – slipped to second place. His net worth dropped to US$37bn from US$62bn.
The total net worth of the billionaires on Forbes’ list shrank to US$2.4 trillion from US$4.4 trillion last year, with the average billionaire worth US$3bn, down from US$3.9bn. The top three wealthiest people in the world – Gates, Buffett and Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim – lost a combined US$68bn.
"The global economy’s being battered by a financial hurricane that has wrought devastating damage on the world’s financial systems," Forbes CEO Steve Forbes said in a press conference in
Slim, 69, who controls Telefonos de Mexico SAB, fell to third from second as his net worth dropped to US$35bn from US$60bn. Larry Ellison, 64, CEO of software major Oracle Corp., rose to fourth from 14th, even though his net worth dropped to US$22.5bn from US$25bn.
The net worth of 656 billionaires on the list fell from a year earlier. Only 44 gained.
Last year’s biggest gainer turned out to be this year’s biggest loser. The net worth of Anil Ambani, 49, declined by US$31.9bn to US$10.1bn, still good enough for 34th place. In last year’s ranking, his fortune had increased by US$24bn.
The number of new billionaires fell to 38 from 226 last year. There were 355 people who dropped off the list. There are 72 women on the list, down from 99 last year. The average age rose to 63.7 years from 61 last year, partly because of the losses in