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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 14:27 GMT
The rich get poorer
Bill Gates
Bill Gates: Still the world's richest person
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By Mike Verdin
BBC News Online business reporter
So the Curse of the Dome has struck again.

London's cash-guzzling tribute to the millennium, which even the doggedly popular Labour government failed to prevent becoming a landmark to state misconception, has turned its ill-fortune towards the private sector.

Weeks after supporting a buyout of the building, Philip Anschutz, US oil, telecoms and railway magnate, has seen his personal stock plummet.

World's richest people
1: Bill Gates (Microsoft)
2: Warren Buffett (investment)
3: Karl & Theo Albrecht (Aldi)
4: Paul Allen (Microsoft)
5: Larry Ellison (Oracle)
Source: Forbes
Forbes magazine, which last year rated Mr Anschutz the world's 16th richest man with a fortune of $15.3bn, says he is now worth one third of that, and ranked but 54th.

Only Germany's Leo Kirch, founder of ailing media empire KirchGruppe, has suffered a more humiliating stumble among the league of the best-heeled.

Mr Kirch, worth $12bn last year and ranked 20th, now barely scrapes into the billionaires' club.

The club itself has shrunk to include 497 members, from 538 last year, according to Forbes assessments.

Lower Case

Other notable losers in the 2002 list include Ted Turner, the US cable television tycoon, who has not only divorced from Jane Fonda in recent months, but seen his fortune more than halve to $3.8bn.

The downrating reflects a 60% fall in the price of AOL Time Warner shares, of which Mr Turner is the largest holder, Forbes said.

AOL Time Warner chairman Steve Case, meanwhile, has been relegated to mere millionaire status.

Charles Schwab, founder of the US-based discount broker which bears his name, has seen his personal worth downgraded to more than one third to $4.1bn over concerns about prosperity at the internet-focused firm.

Tech losers

Indeed, executives who made their millions through technology have, not surprisingly, been among the biggest rich list losers after a year in which the sector's fallout continued.

Richest Britons
1: Duke of Westminster (property)
2: Lord Sainsbury (Sainsbury)
3: Bernie Ecclestone (Formula 1)
4: John Hargreaves (Matalan)
5: Earl Cadogan (property)
5: Bruno Schroder (Schroders)
Source: Forbes

Yahoo founders David Filo and Jerry Yang, and Global Crossing's Gary Winnick, have been drummed out of the billionaires' club.

And Softbank tycoon and internet champion Masayoshi Son, once the world's second richest man, continued a wealth slide which has seen his personal worth plunge by $77bn in two years.

But while Microsoft chairman Bill Gates saw his fortune diminish by $5.9bn to $52.8bn, it proved sufficient to earn him the world wealth crown for the fifth year running.

The Sultan of Brunei, who pipped Mr Gates to the title in 1997, has not featured for four years.

Other Microsoft executives placed in the 2002 list include Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer, who retain places among the top 15 tycoons despite the loss of the odd billion dollars in personal wealth.

Oracle's Larry Ellison, who has long coveted top ranking, failed again to boast even half Bill Gates' worth, earning fifth place with a $23.5bn fortune.

Retail gainers

Mr Ellison was overtaken by German store magnates Karl and Theo Albrecht, founders of the Aldi discount chain.

Ingvar Kamprad
Ingvar Kamprad: Growing fortune

Indeed, retailers are among the winners on this year's list, with members of the Walton family, which controls Wal-Mart, and Ikea chief Ingvar Kamprad closing the gap with the technology barons.

The personal value of Spanish fashion and retail entrepreneur Amancio Ortega has rocketed by almost one half to $9.1bn after the well-received flotation of his company Inditex.

And Mexican's Jeronimo Arango saw his worth double to $3.7bn.

German mail order king Michael Otto has climbed 30 places in the rankings as his Otto Versand company earned increasing internet orders, and claimed second spot, after Amazon, among consumer retailers on the web.

Japan falls

Indeed, whatever the overall economic blight affecting Germany, the country's rich seem to be thriving regardless.

The nation boasts 35 billionaires, compared with 28 last year.

Executives in that other slump-affected giant, Japan, have proved less fortunate, dragging the company below Germany in the national table of tycoons.

Besides Masayoshi Son, consumer finance magnates Yasuo Takei and Kyosuke Kinoshita were amongst those who have ended the last 12 months significantly poorer.

Mittal omitted

Britain is among the gainers at national level, boasting, at 13 billionaires, one more than last year.

Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett: up to number two

Currency trader Joe Lewis again earned a mention, with supermarket heir and New Labour supremo Lord Sainsbury returning to claim 76th spot.

Less welcome to Prime Minister Blair may be the $400m slide in the wealth of Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin empire who has boasted strong government links.

And certain to cause government discomfort is the loss from the UK list of Lakshmi Mittal, the steel boss at the centre of the so-called "Garbagegate" affair.

This is not because, even after receiving Mr Blair's backing for his business interests, Mr Mittal's fortune shrank by $400m.

It is because Mr Mittal, whose steel firm Mr Blair backed to help further British interests, has been rerated by Forbes as an Indian citizen.

Leah Thompson, Forbes
"It's in old line industrial companies where we are starting to see new billionaires."
See also:

24 Feb 02 | Business
Leo Kirch: 'Murdoch is a shark'
28 Sep 01 | Business
Market slide hits rich Americans
19 Dec 00 | Business
Branson's luck runs out
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