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The world's richest people

Last updated on: March 09, 2007 11:17 IST

It has been a busy year for Forbes' team of fortune hunters. Strong equity markets combined with rising real estate values and commodity prices pushed up fortunes from Mumbai to Madrid. Forbes pinned down a record 946 billionaires. There were 178 newcomers, including 19 Russians, 14 Indians, 13 Chinese and 10 Spaniards, as well as the first billionaires from Cyprus, Oman, Romania and Serbia.

In pictures:
The world's billionaires
Celebrity billionaires
Bachelor billionaires

Billionaires under 40

Ingenuity, not industry, is the common characteristic; these folks made money in everything from media and real estate to coffee, dumplings and ethanol. Two-thirds of last year's billionaires are richer. Only 17 per cent are poorer, including 32 who fell below the billion-dollar mark. The billionaires' combined net worth climbed by $900 billion to $3.5 trillion. That equates to $3.6 billion apiece.

The average billionaire is 62 years old, two years younger than in 2005. This year's new billionaires are seven years younger than that. Of list members' fortunes, 60 per cent made theirs from scratch.

Within the ranks are simmering rivalries. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the world's richest man for 13 years, and his pal Warren Buffett, who holds the No. 2 spot despite enormous charitable donations, are quickly losing ground to Mexico's most-monied man, Carlos Slim Helu.

Helu's net worth is up an astonishing $19 billion this year--the single biggest one-year gain in a decade--and is now just $7 billion shy of Gates and $3 billion less than Buffett. In Europe, Russia's mostly young, self-made tycoons are catching up to Germany's often-aging heirs and heiresses.

In pictures:
Billionaire dropoffs
Richest newcomers

 World's 10 richest people

Rank

Name

Citizenship

Age

Net Worth ($bil)

Residence

1

William Gates III

United States

51

56.0

United States

2

Warren Buffett

United States

76

52.0

United States

3

Carlos Slim Helu

Mexico

67

49.0

Mexico

4

Ingvar Kamprad & family

Sweden

80

33.0

Switzerland

5

Lakshmi Mittal

India

56

32.0

United Kingdom

6

Sheldon Adelson

United States

73

26.5

United States

7

Bernard Arnault

France

58

26.0

France

8

Amancio Ortega

Spain

71

24.0

Spain

9

Li Ka-shing

Hong Kong

78

23.0

Hong Kong

10

David Thomson & family

Canada

49

22.0

Canada

Russia now has 53 billionaires (2 shy of Germany's total), but they are worth $282 billion ($37 billion more than Germany's richest). After a 20-year reign, Japan is no longer Asia's top spot for billionaires: India has 36, worth a total of $191 billion, followed by Japan with 24, worth a combined $64 billion.

India's rich are also marching toward the top of our rankings. Brothers Mukesh and Anil Ambani, who split up their family's conglomerate in 2005, join Lakshmi Mittal, who heads the world's biggest steel company, Arcelor Mittal, among the world's 20 wealthiest. India now has three in the upper echelons, second only to the US.

In pictures
Billionaire biggest gainers
Billionaire divorcees
Billionaire women we envy

But even in such a prosperous year, 44 people dropped off the list for various reasons.

All our numbers are based on a snapshot of balance sheets taken on February 9, the day we locked in stock prices and exchange rates. So the five executives who took their Fortress Investment Group public at 9:30 a.m. on that morning made the cut. Also on the list is Ernest Gallo, founder of E & J Gallo Winery, who died on March 6. But our numbers don't reflect the volatility that shook the markets three weeks later.

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The billionaire bad boy

Between Februray 9 and March 2 the world's stock markets, as measured by the Morgan Stanley All Country World Local Index, fell by 3.7 per cent. Some fortunes (those based on private accumulations of real estate, for example) didn't feel a blip. But some suffered severe damage. One big loser was a Spaniard, Enrique Banuelos, whose fortune fell 30 per cent in four days.

Are there billionaires we don't know about? Surely, yes. For instance, we didn't uncover Ireland's Denis O'Brien, who pocketed $800 million in a junk bond offering, until 13 days after we'd locked in fortunes, so he is not reflected in the rankings.


Acknowledgments
Monir Barakat, Wafra Investment Advisory Group; J. M. Degen & Co.; Andriy Dmytrenko, Dragon Capital, Kiev; Euromonitor; Alaric Hu, Bank of America; Ignatov & Co. Group; John S. Mason, Stephen Mason Associates; Millennium Capital; S&J, Korea; Planet Retail, London; Renaissance Capital; Edward W. Townshend, Colliers Jackson-Stops; Jim Wagoner, United Country Lambert Realty; Zawya Research Database; Finn Øystein Bergh, Kapital magazine; Ketil Skjak, real estate analyst, SEB Enskilda

Reported By
Cristina von Zeppelin, Chaniga Vorasarun, Tatiana Serafin, Devon Pendleton, Megha Bahree, Helen Coster, Kerry A. Dolan, Russell Flannery, Suzanne Hoppough, Megan Johnston, Naazneen Karmali, Maxim Kashulinsky, Matthew Miller, Kiyoe Minami, Forbes Russia, Kirill Vishnepolsky

Additional Reporting By
Maggie Chen, Chandrani Ghosh, Lea Goldman, Evan Hessel, Steven Lee, Burak Mavi, Hulya Odemis, Jessica Ramakrishnan, Matthew Rand, Kemal Sen, Matthew Swibel, Forbes Turkey, Nathan Vardi

Research By
Heidi Brown, Forbes Israel, Forbes Poland, Josephine Lee, Theo Albrecht Germany Deborah Orr

Database By
Mitchel Rand

Forbes.com