Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been named the richest person in the world in Forbes magazine’s annual billionaire wealth list.
But like most of the entrepreneurs on the list, Gates’s wealth has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, falling $US18 billion to $US40 billion.
Gates just pipped legendary investor Warren Buffett, whose fortune has slumped by $U25 billion to $US37 billion.
Third on the list is Mexican entrepreneur Carlos Slim (down $US25 billion to $US35 million) followed by Oracle founder Larry Ellison (with a fortune of $US22.5 billion) and Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad ($US22.5 billion).
There are 10 Australians on the list, led by Frank Lowy ($US2.7 billion) and James Packer ($US2.5 billion). Australia’s richest woman is Gina Rinehart, whose fortune is valued at $US1.9 billion.
Seven Network chief Kerry Stokes and trucking magnate Lindsay Fox just scraped on to the list with fortunes of $US1 billion.
The impact of the global financial crisis on the ranks of the world’s billionaires is staggering.
The number of billionaires on the list has fallen from 1125 to just 793, while the total wealth of the members of the list has plummeted from $US4.4 trillion to $US2.4 trillion. Their average net worth fell 23% to $US3 billion, the lowest point since 2003.
The biggest loser was India’s Anil Ambani, who lost $US32 billion – 76% of his fortune after shares of his companies Reliance Communications, Reliance Power and Reliance Capital collapsed.
Some of the notable departures from the list include Irish entrepreneur Tony O’Reilly, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and disgraced investors Allen Stanford and John and Richard Marriott, sons of the founder of the hotel chain Marriott International.