News Column

The Poorest Little Billionaires: Forbes List Meets New Economy

March 12, 2009


forbes billionaires, bill gates, carlos slim, Joaquin Guzman

Forbes Magazine recently published its latest "Billionaires List," only to describe those fabulously wealthy folks as getting poorer. Bill Gates lost nearly a third of his $58 billion 2008 worth, but his still-solid $40 billion clinched him the number one spot and "the richest man in the world" title. Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet fell to the number two spot and Mexican telephone mogul (and recent NY Times savior) Carlos Slim Helu was ranked number three; both men lost $25 billion of their fortunes in just one year's time.

Forbes also reported that nearly a third of the world's 2008 billionaires have fallen out of the billionaire category and dropped to a meager multi-million dollar ranking due to the global economy. In 2008, there were 1,125 billionaires, and now there are only 793. The United States accounted for 44% of the wealth on the Forbes' list and took 45% of the top spots, but this doesn't mean Americans were making more money. In fact, 12 wealthy Americans lost their billionaire status. 87% of the billionaires on the list were poorer than last year, a total of $2 trillion dollars poorer. India was hit by far the worst, where all but one of its 24 wealthiest citizens lost money.

But it wasn't all bad. Thirty-eight newcomers made the list, including heir Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahayan of the United Arab Emirates, German wind turbine inventor and Enercon creator Aloys Wobben, and John Paul DeJoria, who is most well known for his Paul Mitchell products but is also the creator of Patron Tequila. The most controversial man to make the list at number 701 was Joaquin Guzman, Mexico's infamous drug cartel owner and arguable one of the most wanted men in North America. "El Chapo" or "Shorty" as he is better known by the Mexican government is reportedly the largest cocaine supplier to the U.S. and was imprisoned in 1993 for homicide and drug charges but later escaped in 2001. Forbes appraises that this "self-made" "shipping" executive is worth $1 billion, though his head is worth an estimated $5 million in the United States.

Family-owned Wal-Mart had wide representation on the Forbes Billionaire list, which included six Walton family members: S. Robson, Christy, and Alice, who all tied for number 12 on the list at $17.6 billion. Jim (worth $17.8 billion), Ann, and Nancy received spots 11, 26, and 296, respectively. A total of 73 women made the list, as did New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose priority these days is boning up on Spanish lessons...

Source: (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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