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Monday, June 21, 1999 Published at 06:27 GMT 07:27 UK

Business: The Economy

Internet helps make rich richer

Last year Bill Gates made an average of $4.5m an hour

Computers and the Internet, as well as a booming stock market, have contributed to a record number of billionaires.

The BBC's Patrick Bartlett reports on ways to net your first million
The American Forbes magazine's annual list of the world's richest people says there are now well over 400 billionaires, who own more wealth than ever before.

Three of the top five are connected with the software company, Microsoft.

The top spot goes again to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates - worth more than $90bn, almost twice his total last year.

BBC's Nadira Artyk: The Internet has not just increased the pace of life
The world's seven richest people are all American.

But 11 British families or individuals also make it onto the list - including the Queen, the Sainsbury family, the Duke of Westminster, and Richard Branson.

Nine years ago most of the top 10 were Japanese.

Internet accelerates wealth

Internet and computer business has helped push the collective worth of the richest 200 people beyond $1 trillion.

[ image: Windows has generated millions for Microsoft]
Windows has generated millions for Microsoft
Mr Gates alone has as much money as the top nine on the list a decade ago.

The huge increase in Mr Gates' wealth came largely from a rise in the value of his Microsoft stock.

But a number of new Internet billionaires are featured for the first time.

Jay Walker, founder of, and Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, both made it to the Top 50 with more than $10bn each.

The first British entrant on the list is the Sainsbury family in 75th place. The family's estimated $4.9bn (£3.1bn) fortune comes from the supermarket chain bearing its name.

Next comes the Duke of Westminster, who owns large parts of Mayfair in London, and whose estimated wealth of $3.3bn (£2.1bn) puts him in 140th place.

The Moores family are in 171st place with about $2.9bn (£1.8bn) from the Littlewoods pools, chain store and mail order empire.

Virgin tycoon Richard Branson is 185th, worth an estimated $2.6bn (£1.6bn).

Kings, Queens and Dictators

The magazine also lists what it calls the world's Kings, Queens and Dictators.

[ image: Queen Elizabeth II with the Sultan of Brunei]
Queen Elizabeth II with the Sultan of Brunei
The Sultan of Brunei is the richest leader, at $30bn, followed by Saudi Arabia's King Fahd.

The magazine is ambiguous about Queen Elizabeth II.

It says she is either worth about half a billion - or some $16bn if the Royal Collection, including the crown jewels, is taken into account.

The Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein comes in at sixth place with $6bn.

The magazine attributes his wealth to oil and to an alleged smuggling operation controlled by his son.

Top 10 working rich

  • Bill Gates, US, $90bn
  • Warren Buffett, US, $36bn
  • Paul Allen, US, $30bn
  • Steven Ballmer,US, $19.5bn
  • Philip Anschutz, US, $16.5bn
  • Michael Dell, US, $16.5bn
  • S. Robson Walton, US, $15.8bn
  • Prince Alsaud, Saudi Arabia, $15bn
  • Theo Karl Albrecht, Germany, $13.6bn
  • Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong, $12.7bn

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Bill Gates' Personal Wealth Clock

The World's Richest People (1998) - Forbes

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