12 Mar :With a fortune of USD 40 billion, software czar Bill Gates has regained his position as the world’s wealthiest from his friend and legendary investor Warren Buffett, even as the economic crisis wiped off USD two trillion from the wealth of billionaires across the world.
Gates, who himself lost USD 18 billion in the past one year, is followed by Buffett (USD 37 billion) at the second and Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim (USD 35 billion) at the third position as per the World’s Billionaires list released by the US magazine Forbes.
Buffett was ranked as the richest person in the world in last year’s list, followed by Carlos Slim and Gates at second and third positions respectively.
There are 793 billionaires in the world now, down about 30 per cent from 1,125 a year ago, while collectively they have become poorer from USD 4.4 trillion to USD 2.4 trillion.
There are just two Indians in the list of top 10 richest persons across the world, down from four last year.Indian petrochemicals giant Reliance Industries Chairman and MD Mukesh Ambani has been ranked as the richest among all the Indians with a net worth of USD 19.5 billion, followed by NRI steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal (19.3 billion dollars).
In the global list, Ambani is ranked seventh (down from fifth last year) and Mittal is at eighth position (fourth in 2008).
Others in the top 10 include software firm Oracle’s chief Lawrence Ellison (4th; USD 22.5 billion), Sweden’s Ingvar Kamprad (5th; USD 22 billion), Germany’s Karl Albrecht (6th; USD 21.5 billion), Germany’s Theo Albrecht (9th; USD 18.8 billion) and Spain’s Amancio Ortega (10th; USD 18.3 billion).
The previous year’s list also included Anil Ambani at the sixth position (down to 34th this year) and realty baron K P Singh at the eighth position (down to 98 in this year’s list).
Overall, the Indians’ presence on the list has shrunk to half from 53 last year to 24 in the latest list, Forbes said.
The richest people in the world have also endured a financial disaster over the past year in a world that has become a wealth wasteland.
It is the first time since 2003 that the world has had a net loss in the number of billionaires and their average net worth fell 23 per cent to USD 3 billion. The last time the average was that low was in 2003, Forbes said.
The top three billionaires on the list witnessed a combined wealth erosion of USD 68 billion.
Bill Gates lost USD 18 billion but it was less than USD 25 billion lost each by Warren Buffett and Mexican telecom titan Carlos Slim Helu.
"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," Forbes said.
Out of the 1,125 billionaires who made to 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.
The US regained its dominance as a repository of wealth and accounted for 44 per cent of the money and 45 per cent of the list’s slots, but still it has 110 fewer billionaires than a year ago.
Meanwhile, Russia has become the epicentre of the world’s commodities bust, dropping 55 billionaires two-thirds of its last year’s figure.
"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," Forbes said.
Those with ties to Wall Street were particularly hard hit. As across the world 80 of the 355 drop-offs from last year’s list had fortunes derived from finance or investments.
Former head of AIG, Maurice (Hank) Greenberg, saw his USD 1.9 billion fortune nearly wiped out after the insurance behemoth had to be bailed out by the US government. Today Greenberg is worth less than USD 100 million.
Citigroup former 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 Stephen Schwarzman, who lost USD 4 billion, and Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts’ Henry Kravis, who lost USD 2.5 billion, have retained their billionaire status despite weaker fortunes.
While 656 billionaires lost money in the past year, 44 added to their fortunes.
In these tough economic situation most of the newcomers in the list are from diverse backgrounds from cocaine suppliers to selling electric cars.
Out of the 38 newcomers, the more notable new billionaires are Mexican Joaquin Guzman Loera, one of the biggest suppliers of cocaine to the US; 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 Patron Tequila, Forbes said.