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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 February, 2003, 13:44 GMT
Microsoft weaves wealth magic
Bill Gates
Bill Gates: Still number one in the rich list
Bill Gates has, once more, been named by Forbes Global magazine as the richest man in the world, as Microsoft continued to weave its spell of riches.

The Microsoft chairman is worth $40.7bn, $10bn more than investment legend Warren Buffet, ranked second in Forbes' annual billionaires league.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen earned fourth place with a 20.1bn fortune, with chief executive Steve Ballmer's $11.1bn winning him 16th position.

But Forbes warned that the super-wealthy had been hit by slowdown which has pitched some of the world's major economies towards recession.

"The list tells the story of continued economic strife," Forbes said.

"The collective net worth of the billionaires... now stand at $1.4 trillion, down from $1.54 trillion last year."

Mr Gates' fortune alone slid by $12bn over the year.

German stalwarts

Mr Gates was among 222 Americans on the Forbes list, which the US dominated, as in previous years.

World rich league
1: Bill Gates, US, technology, $40.7bn
2: Warren Buffett, US, investments, $30.5bn
3: Karl & Theo Albrecht, Germany, retailing, $25.6bn
4: Paul Allen, US, technology, $20.1bn
5: Prince Alwaleed Alsaud, Saudi Arabia, various, $17.7bn
6: Larry Ellison, US, technology, $16.6bn
7=: Alice Walton, US, retailing, $16.5bn
7=: Helen Walton, US, retailing, $16.5bn
7=: Jim Walton, US, retailing, $16.5bn
7=: John Walton, US, retailing, $16.5bn
7=: Robson Walton, US, retailing, $16.5bn

While 30 Americans lost their places in the billionaires' club, rising tycoons included media star Oprah Winfrey, whose $1bn fortune saw her become the first black woman to win a place on the list.

Another year of strong profits at Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, saw the ruling Walton family claim five of the top 11 places.

But while the EU economy has faltered, the number of European billionaires rose by 13 to 134, with German tycoons particularly well represented.

Karl and Theo Albrecht, founders of the Aldi supermarket empire, were ranked in third place, with former BASF chief Curt Engelhorn and retired industrialist Friedrich K Flick also in the top 50.

Germany also accounted for the youngest billionaire - 19-year-old Albert Thurn und Taxis, whose inherited fortune is estimated at $1.5bn.

Moscow magnates

But it was the rising number of Russian tycoons which attracted particular attention from Forbes.

Russia possessed 17 tycoons, 10 more than last year, taking it past the UK, France, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia in the country table, and putting it only two magnates behind Japan.

"Considering the modest size of the Russian economy these days, Russia may well have the highest billionaire to [economic output] ratio in the world," a Forbes article said.

Forbes credited the increase to economic stability, and the tightening of corporate governance.

The richest Russian was Mikhail Khodorkovsky, head of oil giant Yukos.

First timers

Other countries which saw their tycoon count grow included India, which boasts seven billionaires, two more than last year.

Indian billionaires include Wipro head Azim Premji and Reliance heirs Mukesh and Anil Ambani.

Indonesia gained an entry this year thanks to the inclusion of the Halim family, owner of a tobacco empire, while metals to media baron Albert Frere ensured representation for Belgium.


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