Skip to main content

Mexican mogul Slim edges out Gates as world's richest person

From Jason Kessler, CNN
  • Forbes' three richest: Carlos Slim Helu, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett
  • It marked the first time since 1994 that the world's richest wasn't from U.S.
  • Number of billionaires in the world rose in the past year, from 793 to 1,011
  • Of the debuting billionaires, 62 were from Asia, signaling economic recovery there

New York (CNN) -- Forbes magazine released its annual list of the world's richest people Wednesday, and for only the second time since 1995, Microsoft founder Bill Gates' name was not at the top.

This year, the title of "World's Richest" went to Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim, with a net worth of $53.5 billion.

Slim, whose holding company America Movil contains a sprawling collection of telecom assets, is the first non-American to be declared Forbes' richest person since 1994, when Japanese real estate kingpin Yoshiaki Tsutsumi held that honor. (He has since disappeared from the list entirely).

But Slim's financial edge over Gates is, well, slim, at least by billionaire standards -- just $500 million. A $1 increase in Microsoft shares, the compilers of the Forbes list noted at a press conference Wednesday, could send Gates' net worth ahead of Slim's.

Also, were it not for his extensive philanthropy, Gates would have a net worth in the ballpark of $80 billion, Forbes' Matthew Miller estimated.

How much should a billionaire donate to charity?

Gates is the world's second richest person, with a net worth of $53 billion. Warren Buffett came in third this year, with a net worth of $47 billion.

Billionaires' total net worth rose 50 percent to $3.6 trillion. After sharply contracting the previous year, the total number of billionaires also increased from 793 to 1,011, Forbes' list showed. The number is still lower than the record 1,125 billionaires recorded in 2008.

Not only are there more billionaires than last year, but the ones at the top are even richer than last year. The top 10 billionaires have a combined net worth of $342 billion, up from $254 billion in 2009, Forbes said.

In terms of the international scorecard, the United States still boasts more billionaires than any other country -- 403, or nearly 40 percent of all billionaires. New York, similarly, has more billionaires than any city on the globe.

But America's billionaires have not rebounded from the recession as strongly as other countries' billionaires.

The United States "is not doing as well as the rest of the world in coming back," publisher Steve Forbes said.

As U.S. billionaires' dominance of Forbes' list wanes, Asian countries are seeing their ranks of billionaires swell, especially China. Mainland China has the second-most billionaires after the United States, overtaking Russia for the first time. Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and India also saw significant upticks in their billionaire tallies.

Elsewhere, Turkey's billionaire community expanded notably, jumping to 28 members from 13, while Western Europe, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates underperformed by comparison.

As in years past, the Forbes list showed a severe gender imbalance in the world's billionaire population

Eighty-nine of the 1,011 billionaires are women. Fourteen of those female billionaires are self-made, including Oprah Winfrey, whose net worth dipped $300 million to $2.4 billion. Half of the world's self-made female billionaires are from China.

For three years running, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, 25, secured the distinction of being the list's youngest billionaire, climbing to the 212th rung with a net worth of $4 billion.

On the opposite end of the age spectrum is Switzerland's 99-year-old Walter Haefner, ranked 287th.

The year's biggest winner was Brazilian minerals magnate Eike Batista, who added $19.5 billion to his net worth in 12 months, enough to catapult him to eighth place on the list, from 61st. Modesty is apparently not one of Batista's many possessions: He has vowed to become the world's richest person.

On the flip side, German heiress Madeleine Schickedanz's bank account had a hideous year. After clocking in as Forbes' 142nd richest person in 2007, she plunged into relative penury and now "claims to be living on several thousand dollars a month," said Forbes senior editor Luisa Kroll.