As emerging stock markets surged during the last year, a charmed coterie of wealthy people around the world won a much-coveted title along with their stellar gains -- they all became billionaires. But tepid returns in the United States ate into the fortunes of some of the richest Americans, including the founding family of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
The number of billionaires around the world rose by 102 to a record 793 over the last year, and their combined wealth grew 18% to $2.6 trillion, according to Forbes magazine’s 2006 rankings of the world’s richest people.
Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates was the world’s richest man for the 12th year running. Gates grew wealthier, with his net worth rising to $50 billion from $46.5 billion. Investor Warren Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., again ranked second, although his fortune fell $2 billion to $42 billion.
The rest of the top 10 underwent a major reshuffling, with three familiar names dropping out of that select group: German supermarket company owner Karl Albrecht, Oracle Corp.'s Lawrence Ellison and Wal-Mart Chairman S. Robson Walton.
Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim moved up a notch to No. 3 with $30 billion, replacing Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, who fell to No. 5 with $23.5 billion. Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad of Sweden rose two slots to No. 4 with $28 billion.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen edged up to sixth place from No. 7, with a net worth of $22 billion. He was followed by France’s Bernard Arnault, head of LVMH and the Christian Dior Group, with $21.5 billion; Arnault was new to the top 10.
Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal fell to eighth place from No. 5, with $20 billion, and Canadian publisher Kenneth Thomson and his family moved into the top 10, ranking No. 9 with $19.6 billion.
Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing rose to No. 10 with $18.8 billion. Ka-shing is the chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd. and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.
The Walton family, which had dominated the upper echelons of the Forbes list in recent years, tumbled in this year’s ranking as the world’s largest retailer’s shares dropped more than 10% in value over the last year.
Martha Stewart, who was new to the list last year, dropped off this year. Her fortune shrank from $1 billion to an estimated $500 million after her conviction for lying about a stock sale and a five-month prison term.
Investors in new industry sectors popped up on this year’s list, notably those with holdings in alternative energy sources and online gaming.
Australian Shi Zhengrong, No. 350, made a $2.2-billion fortune through his solar energy company out of China. India’s Tulsi Tanti, whose company owns Asia’s largest wind farm, arrived at No. 562 with $1.4 billion after his firm went public.
J. DeLeon and Ruth Parasol, both of the United States and tied for No. 428 with $1.8 billion each, represented the online gaming industry.
Parasol is also one of the 10 new women to make the list and the only female newcomer to be self-made. Only six of the 78 female billionaires are self-made; most attained their wealth through marriage or inheritance.
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California’s top 10
15 on Forbes list. Lawrence Ellison, age 61, $16 billion, Oracle
26. Sergey Brin, 32, $12.9, Google
27. Larry Page, 33, $12.8, Google
53. Kirk Kerkorian, 88, $8.7, investments, casinos
63. Sumner Redstone, 82, $7.7, Viacom
103. Eli Broad, 72, $5.9, investments
104. Donald Bren, 73, $5.7, real estate
129. Eric Schmidt, 50, $4.8, Google
140. David Geffen, 63, $4.4, recording, DreamWorks
140. Steve Jobs, 51, $4.4, Apple Computer, Pixar