William Gates III
Rank: 1 Net Worth: $40.0 bil, Fortune: self madeSoftware visionary regains title as the world’s richest man despite losing $18 billion in the past 12 months. Stepped down from day-to-day duties at Microsoft last summer to devote his talents and riches to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Organization’s assets were $30 billion in January; annual letter lauds endowment manager Michael Larson for limiting last year’s losses to 20%. Gates decided to increase donations in 2009 to $3.8 billion, up 15% from 2008.
Rank: 2 Net Worth: $37.0 bil, Fortune: self made
Last year America’s most beloved investor was the world’s richest man . This year he has to settle for second place after losing $25 billion in 12 months. Shares of Berkshire Hathaway down 45% since last March. Injected billions of dollars into Goldman Sachs, GE in exchange for preferred stock last fall; propped up insurance firm Swiss Re in February with $2.6 billion infusion. Admits he made some "dumb" investment mistakes in 2008. Upbeat about America’s future: "Our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time.
Carlos Slim Helu & family
Rank: 3 Net Worth: $35.0 bil, Fortune: self made
Economic downturn and plunging peso shaved $25 billion from the fortune of Latin America’s richest man. Global recession testing his ability to live up to the principles he sets for his employees: "Maintain austerity in times of fat cows." Son of a Lebanese immigrant bought fixed line operator Telefonos de Mexico (Telmex) in 1990; now controls 90% of Mexico’s telephone landlines.
Rank: 4 Net Worth: $22.5 bil, Fortune: self made
Database titan continues to engulf the competition; Oracle has racked up 49 acquisitions in the past 4 years. Bought BEA Systems for $8.5 billion last year. Still sitting on $7 billion in cash. Revenues up 11% to $10.9 billion in the six months ended November 30; profits also up 11% to $2.4 billion. Stock down 25% in past 12 months. Invested $125 million in Web software outfit Netsuite; took public in 2007, stock has fallen 80% since. His shares still worth $300 million.
Ingvar Kamprad & family
Rank: 5 Net Worth: $22.0 bil, Fortune: self made
Peddled matches, fish, pens, Christmas cards and other items by bicycle as a teenager. Started selling furniture in 1947. Opened first Ikea store 50 years ago; stores’s name is a combination of initials of his first and last name, his family farm and the nearest village. Retired in 1986; company’s "senior adviser" still reportedly works tirelessly on his brand. Discount retailer now sells 9,500 items in 36 countries; prints catalog in 27 languages. Revenues up 7% to $27.4 billion in fiscal year 2008.
Rank: 6 Net Worth: $21.5 bil, Fortune:self made
Germany’s richest person owns discount supermarket giant Aldi Sud. Retailer faring well amid economic downturn; analysts expect its 2008 sales to be up 9.4% to $33.7 billion. Sales in the U.S. up estimated 20% last year to $7 billion. Plans to open 75 U.S. stores in 2009, including first in New York City.
Rank: 7 Net Worth: $19.5 bil, Fortune: inherited and growing
Oversees Reliance Industries, India’s most valuable company by market cap despite stock falling 40% in past year. Merging his Reliance Petroleum with flagship Reliance Industries. As part of deal, will exercise right to buy back Chevron’s 5% stake in Reliance Petroleum at $1.20 per share—the same price at which he sold it 3 years ago. Today the stock trades for $1.80 a share. Increased stake in Reliance Industries in October; paid $3.4 billion to convert 120 million preferential warrants into shares. Reliance Petroleum refinery on India’s western coast began operating in December despite falling global demand and declining margins.
Rank: 8 Net Worth: $19.3 bil, Fortune: inherited and growing
Indian immigrant heads world’s largest steel company; ArcelorMittal was formed via hostile takeover 3 years ago. Stock in company makes up bulk of his fortune; shares at a 4-year low with steel prices down 75% since last summer. Company forced to pay heavy fines after a French antitrust investigation found 10 companies guilty of price-fixing in European steel markets. Arcelor posted $2.6 billion loss in most recent quarter; announced plans to slow acquisitions, cut capital expenditures, pay down debt. Started in family steel business in the 1970s, branched out on his own in 1994.
Rank: 9 Net Worth:Net Worth:$18.8 bil, Fortune:self made
Runs discount supermarket group Aldi Nord; firm holding up amid economic downturn. Sales expected to hit $31 billion in 2008. After World War II he and older brother Karl transformed their mother’s corner grocery into Aldi. Brothers split ownership in 1961; Karl took the stores in southern Germany, plus the rights to the brand in the U.K., Australia and the U.S.
Rank: 10, Net Worth: $18.3 bil ,Fortune: self made
Railway worker’s son started as a gofer in a shirt store. With then-wife Rosalia Mera, also now a billionaire, started making dressing gowns and lingerie in their living room. Business became one of world’s most successful apparel manufacturers. Today Inditex has more than 4,000 stores in 71 countries. Sales: $12.3 billion. Ortega is chairman. Company exported its cheap chic Zara stores to 4 new markets last year: Ukraine, South Korea, Montenegro and Honduras. Stock up 1% in past 12 months, but fortune down because of weak euro.