Friday, March 11, 2011

Forbes Billionaires

Forbes has released its annual survey of the World's Billionaires.  Again, I fell short.  C'est la vie.  I remember when I was a kid in the 1980s, that this list was actually shorter than the Forbes 400 list.  Now, it has grown to over 1200 people worldwide.

The list might be longer, but Forbes excludes people, like Sovereigns, whose wealth can be hard to distinguish from that of the Crown.  Were some of these included - like the Thai King, Bhumipol Aduljedej (Puh-mi-pon A-dul-ya-dayd), the Saudi Royals (apart from Prince Taleed), Kuwaiti Royals, and the Sultan of Brunei, the list could increase by some 50-100 people more.

One thing is for sure, the last 12 months have been very good to the world's billionaires - with surging equity and commodity markets, these folks tended to see their assets rise sharply, in some cases, extraordinarily.

At #1 Carlos Slim proves that even in Mexico, a country some suggest is on its way to becoming a failed narco-state (I am not so pessimistic), it is possible to make good money with the telephone service.  Mexico needs a Judge Green to force deregulation.  Bill Gates is again America's richest, in spite of his continuous donations to his foundation and other charities.  That may be because Buffett is doing the same (giving money to Bill Gates' foundation), it certainly is not due to a huge rally in MSFT.

A few other notables: Europe's richest man is the owner of Ferrero-Rocher, which in addition to the eponymous chocolates also makes Kinder, Nutella and some others.  Germany's richest remains the sole surviving Albrecht brother (of Aldi fame).  Mark Zuckerberg makes it near the top 50 (the other guys from the startup phase chronicled in the Accidental Billionaires and the Social Network are also now on the list).

Perhaps most amazing is that there are now approximately 100 people with fortunes of over $10bn.  As I said, when I first became aware of this list, there were just over 300 people on it.  It was a very different list, too.  Now there are nearly 300 people with $5bn in assets.

A million is really nothing anymore, though people still think dollar millionaires are rich people.

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