1. Carlos Slim Helu
Telecom tycoon who pounced on privatization of Mexico’s national telephone company in the 1990s becomes world’s richest person for first time after coming in third place last year. Net worth up $18.5 billion in a year. Recently received regulatory approval to merge his fixed-line assets into American Movil, Latin America’s biggest mobile phone company. More on Carlos Slim Helu & family
2. Bill Gates
Software visionary is now the world’s second-richest man. Net worth still up $13 billion in a year as Microsoft shares rose 50% in 12 months, value of investment vehicle Cascade swelled. More than 60% of fortune held outside Microsoft; investments include Four Seasons hotels, Televisa, Auto Nation. Stepped down from day-to-day duties at Microsoft in 2008 to focus on philanthropy. More on William Gates III
3. Warren Buffett
America’s favorite investor up $10 billion in past 12 months on surging Berkshire Hathaway shares; says U.S. has survived economic “Pearl Harbor,” but warns recovery will be slow. Shrewdly invested $5 billion in Goldman Sachs and $3 billion in General Electric amid 2008 market collapse. Recently acquired railroad giant Burlington Northern Santa Fe for $26 billion.
4. Mukesh Ambani
Petrochemicals, oil and gas. India.
Global ambitions: His Reliance Industries, already India’s most valuable company, recently bid $2 billion for 65% stake in troubled Canadian oil sands outfit Value Creations. Firm’s $14.5 billion offer to buy bankrupt petrochemicals maker LyondellBasell was rejected. Since September company has sold Treasury shares worth $2 billion to be used for acquisitions. Late father, Dhirubhai, founded Reliance and built it into a massive conglomerate.
5. Lakshmi Mittal
London’s richest resident oversees ArcelorMittal, world’s largest steel maker. Net profits fell 75% in 2009. Mittal took 12% pay cut but improved outlook pushed stock up one-third in past year. Looking to expand in his native India; wants to build steel mills in Jharkhad and Orissa but has not received government approval. Earned $1.1 billion for selling his interest in a Kazakh refinery in December.
6. Lawrence Ellison
Oracle founder’s fortune continues to soar; shares up 70% in past 12 months. Database giant has bought 57 companies in the past five years. Completed $7.4 billion buyout of Sun Microsystems in January; acquired BEA Systems for $8.5 billion in 2008. Studied physics at U. of Chicago; didn’t graduate. Started Oracle 1977; took public a day before Microsoft in 1986.
7. Bernard Arnault
Luxury goods, France.
Bling is back, helping fashion icon grab title of richest European as shares of his luxury goods outfit LVMH–maker of Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon–surge 57%. LVMH is developing upscale Shanghai commercial property, L’Avenue Shanghai, with Macau billionaire Stanley Ho.
8. Eike Batista
Mining, oil. Brazil.
Vowing to become world’s richest man–and he may be on his way. This year’s biggest gainer added $19.5 billion to his personal balance sheet. Son of Brazil’s revered former mining minister who presided over mining giant Companhia Vale do Rio Doce got his start in gold trading and mining.
9. Amancio Ortega
Fashion retail, Spain.
Style maven lords over Inditex; fashion firm, which operates under several brand names including Zara, Massimo Dutti and Stradivarius, has 4,500 stores in 73 countries including new spots in Mexico and Syria. Set up joint venture with Tata Group subsidiary to enter India in 2010. Betting on Florida real estate: bought Coral Gables office tower that is currently home to Bacardi USA.
10. Karl Albrecht
Owns discount supermarket giant Aldi Sud, one of Germany’s (and Europe’s) dominant grocers. Has 1,000 stores in U.S. across 29 states. Estimated sales: $37 billion. Plans to open New York City store this year. With younger brother, Theo, transformed mother’s corner grocery store into Aldi after World War II. 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. Theo got northern Germany and the rest of Europe.
Bonus 11 – 20
11. Ingvar Kamprad & family
Ikea’s reputation under fire. In Russia company fired two top managers for allowing bribes to a power supplier. In France firm is facing an extended workers’ strike. A former managing director has published a book exposing questionable ethics. Even Kamprad’s frugal image is being questioned, as details of a fancier life (he reportedly drives a Porsche) emerge. Still, no one can question his success.
12. Christy Walton & family
World’s largest retailer benefited as cash-strapped shoppers looked to discount merchandise at start of economic slump. Boost may have waned; recently reported 1.6% decline in same-store sales in its U.S. Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores, warned of soft sales in current quarter. Still, shares are up 7% in past 12 months and family fortune rose a combined $13 billion, largely recovering losses from market crash.
13. Stefan Persson
“Cheap chic” mogul is chairman of Hennes & Mauritz (H&M); promoted son, Karl-Johan, 34, to chief executive in July. Retailer is known for bringing on big names like Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney to design affordable collections for its 1,900 stores. Continuing its designer collaborations with new shoe line with Jimmy Choo that debuted in November and knitwear line with Sonia Rykiel.
14. Li Ka-shing
Diversified, Hong Kong.
Betting on recovery, upped stakes in publicly traded conglomerates Cheung Kong and Hutchison Whampoa. Through HW, Li is world’s largest operator of container terminals, world’s largest health and beauty retailer by number of outlets, a major supplier of electricity to Hong Kong and a real estate developer. Has a large holding in Canadian oil firm Husky Energy, which recently announced its third discovery in South China Sea. Asia’s most generous individual has given out $1.4 billion to education, medical research.
15. Jim C. Walton
Sam Walton started as J.C. Penney clerk. Opened Benjamin Franklin five-and-dime in 1945; lost lease five years later. Founded Bentonville, Ark., general store with brother James in 1962. Today Walmart has $405 billion in annual sales, 2 million employees, more than 8,400 stores. Jim runs family’s Arvest bank.
16. Alice Walton
World’s largest retailer benefited as cash-strapped shoppers looked to discount merchandise at start of economic slump. Boost may have waned; recently reported 1.6% decline in same-store sales in its U.S. Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores, warned of soft sales in current quarter. Still, shares up 7% in past 12 months and family fortune rose a combined $13 billion, largely recovering losses from market crash. Alice funded $100 million airport in Bentonville 1990; building Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
17. Liliane Bettencourt
Makeup heiress’ fortune rebounding with L’Oreal shares. Company, founded by her father, celebrated its 100th birthday in 2009. Last year only daughter and heir, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, petitioned courts to investigate reported $1.4 billion worth of cash and gifts her mother allegedly gave to Francois-Marie Banier, 61, a well-known photographer, writer and painter whom she befriended. Daughter claims Banier took advantage of her mother, who became a widow in 2007. Liliane denies it.
18. S. Robson Walton
Rob has been chairman of Wal-Mart since 1992. World’s largest retailer benefited as cash-strapped shoppers looked to discount merchandise at start of economic slump. Boost may have waned; recently reported 1.6% decline in same-store sales in its U.S. Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores, warned of soft sales in current quarter.
19. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Alsaud
Diversified, Saudi Arabia.
Net worth of globe-trotting investor and nephew of the Saudi king is up $6.1 billion in the past year. Two-thirds of his fortune is held in his 95% stake in Saudi-listed investment vehicle, Kingdom Holding. In the five weeks leading up to Forbes’ stock valuation date, Kingdom shares jumped 49%. Alwaleed and Kingdom Holding together own a 3.5% stake in Citigroup. Kingdom Holding also has large holdings in the Four Seasons and Fairmont hotel management chains.
20. David Thomson and Family
Thomson Reuters, Canada.
Chairman of Thomson Reuters knocks longtime rival Michael Bloomberg out of top 20. Firm acquired financial commentary site Breakingviews in December. Grandfather Roy founded the media group in 1934. With brother Peter, serves as cochair of family’s investment concern, Woodbridge. Also owns CTVglobemedia; multimedia outfit’s holdings include Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and dozens of TV channels and radio stations.
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