NEW YORK – One made the list on the strength of girdle sales, another powered by electric sports cars. Still others lost billions or fell off the list altogether thanks to the weak global economy and the gyrations of financial markets.
Forbes magazine released its annual tally of billionaires on Wednesday, reporting that a record 1,226 people around the globe have a net worth in the ten digits. That’s up 1 percent from last year’s total.
But it wasn’t an easy year for the superrich – about 441 list members lost wealth during the year, nearly equal to the 461 who expanded their fortunes.
And only a fraction, 180, held steady, according to the magazine.
The group’s total combined net worth is up 2 percent at $4.6 trillion. The average worth of a list member is $3.7 billion.
The top of the list contains many of the same names from recent years.
Carlos Slim of Mexico remained the world’s richest man for the third year in a row with a $69 billion fortune, down $5 billion from last year. Forbes attributed the drop in Slim’s fortune to the decline in share prices for regional cellphone carrier America Movil, his largest holding.
Bill Gates of Microsoft Corp. came in second at $61 billion, up $5 billion as his company’s shares hit a ten-year high. And Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway came in at third place with a $44 billion fortune, down $6 billion from the prior year.
There were a number of interesting new faces on the list as well.
Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal and founder of Tesla Motors, joined the list as the world’s 634th richest person as the value of stock in his electric car company rose. The widow of Apple’s Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs, took his spot on the list.
But one of the most interesting additions was Sara Blakely, the founder of women’s slimming undergarments company Spanx Inc., who joined the list this year. At age 41, Blakely is the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire.
It wasn’t the worst year on record, but a few folks on the list lost a pretty penny. Losses ranged from $100 million to $10.4 billion, according to the magazine. And of the 441 people who lost money, at least 81 people lost more than $1 billion.
The biggest loser was Lakshmi Mittal of India, owner of the world’s biggest steel company. His net worth dropped $10.4 billion, leaving him with $20.7 billion. He’s still one of the richest men in Asia, but his company struggled with low demand and high costs. Other losers include Olega Deripaska of Russia, whose net worth is roughly half of what it was last year as lower prices for aluminum and slowing demand hurt the stock price of his company, United Co.
The U.S. is still home to the most billionaires in the world with 425. But there are now billionaires from 58 countries from Peru to Morocco.
Russia and China follow the U.S. but have fewer billionaires this year at 95 and 96 respectively, down from 115 and 101 last year.