Microsoft Corp. mogul Bill Gates is the world’s richest private individual with a $12.9 billion fortune, displacing a Japanese real estate magnate from the top of the annual list compiled by Forbes magazine.
Gates’ wealth rose from $8.1 billion during the past year as Microsoft’s stock price soared, Forbes says in its July 17 issue, released Tuesday. Gates was the richest American a year ago, but ranked second worldwide.
Investor Warren Buffett was second with $10.7 billion, up from $7.9 billion a year ago. Stock in Buffett’s investing company, Berkshire Hathaway, rose 38 percent in the past year.
It was the first time in the nine years that Forbes has been compiling the list that two Americans were on top.
Japanese real estate magnate Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, who had held the No. 1 spot for the last eight years, fell to a third-place tie even though the stronger yen made his net worth climb $500 million to $9 billion.
The heirs of the late retailer Sam Walton remained the world’s richest family with $23.4 billion, slightly less than a year ago.
Forbes said it excludes from its list royal families and heads of state, because their fortunes come more from political heritage than efforts in the realm of economics.
That excludes the Sultan of Brunei, head of an oil-rich Pacific island nation and often described as the world’s richest man. His family’s oil, gas and real estate fortune has been estimated at upwards of $30 billion.
Microsoft stock has been rising in spite of wellpublicized setbacks for the world’s largest maker of software for personal computers. It dropped a $2 billion bid for Intuit Corp. in the face of opposition from the Justice Department, which also is investigating the proposed Microsoft Network on-line service.
Lengthy delays have plagued the release of Microsoft’s Windows 95 operating system, now due out in late August.
Tied with Tsutsumi in third place was Hans Rausing, the Swedish head of packaging company Tetra Laval.
As a group, the billionaires club is growing. Forbes counted 388 private individuals or families with at least $1 billion net worth, up from 358 last year.
Asia was well represented among the richest. Two of the 10 wealthiest individuals are from Hong Kong, one is from South Korea and one is from Taiwan. Indonesia turned up six more billionaires this year, bringing its total to 10.
“Where there’s extraordinary growth, there’s extraordinary opportunity,” Forbes said.
This year, the United States had 129 billionaire fortunes, followed by Germany with 53; Japan, 37; Hong Kong, 14; Thailand, 12; France, 11; and Indonesia and Mexico with 10 each.
xxxx TEN RICHEST The world’s 10 richest individuals, as compiled by Forbes magazine, listed in billions of dollars: $12.9, William H. Gates III, computer software, U.S. $10.7, Warren Edward Buffett, stock market, U.S. $9.0, Hans Rausing, packaging, Sweden. $9.0, Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, real estate, Japan. $8.6, Paul Sacher, pharmaceuticals, Switzerland. $8.5, Tsai Wan-lin, insurance and financial services, Taiwan. $6.5, Lee Shau Kee, real estate, Hong Kong. $6.5, Kenneth Thomson, media, retailing, real estate, Canada. $6.2, Chung Ju-yung, diversified, South Korea. $5.9, Li Ka-shing, real estate, infrastructure, Hong Kong.