The World’s Top 10 Billionaires
1. Name: Carlos Slim Helú and family
Net Worth: $69 billion (DOWN)
Carlos Slim Helú retains the title of world's richest man for the third year in a row despite a fortune that's $5 billion smaller than a year ago—primarily because of a lower share price for telecom giant America Movil, which accounts for more than half his net worth. In April the company was fined $1 billion by Mexican regulators for monopolistic practices but is appealing the decision. Slim is spending more time working with his Carlos Slim Foundation and the Telmex Foundation than he has in the past. His goal: philanthropic work that develops human capacity.
2. Name: Bill Gates
Net Worth: $61 billion (UP)
First part of mission accomplished: The most generous person on the planet (he’s given away $28 billion already) has helped eradicate polio in India. In January the country announced its first polio-free year. Gates will continue to chip in $200 million a year to rid the world of a disease that is still endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. He also has a new endeavor in the works: fixing agriculture. His foundation has committed more than $2 billion to small farmers. Less than one-fourth of his net worth is still held in Microsoft, whose shares are trading higher than they’ve been in 10 years and helped boost his fortune, which is up $5 billion. The rest is in private equity, bonds and stocks such as Ecolab and Mexican broadcaster Televisa.
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3. Name: Warren Buffett
Net Worth: $44 billion (DOWN)
Source: Berkshire Hathaway
Who will replace the Oracle of Omaha at the helm of Berkshire Hathaway? Buffett announced in February he’d finally made the decision, but he wouldn’t give a name. In December he chose his farmer son, Howard, as the future nonexecutive chairman and “guardian of the firm’s values.” New Senate legislation requiring the rich to pay at least a 30% tax rate has been dubbed the “Buffett Rule” in homage to the billionaire’s frequent public statements that the wealthiest should pay more than the average Joe. His net worth is down $6 billion year on year because of a 7% slump in Berkshire’s stock. In his latest annual letter he confessed to some mistakes, including being “dead wrong” about a housing comeback.
4. Name: Bernard Arnault
Net Worth: $41 billion (EQUAL)
The world’s ultimate arbiter of good taste and Europe’s richest person once again, Arnault orchestrated another stellar year at his luxury-goods empire, LVMH. Sales were up 16%, as Europe, Asia and the United States all did well. Louis Vuitton, in particular, thrived. Arnault called 2011 “another great vintage.” LVMH extended ties to two major brands: first, the Bulgari family transferred its majority stake in its eponymous brand to LVMH in exchange for shares and seats on LVMH's board; second, LVMH acquired a 20% stake in Hermes. The group also formed a JV with one of the world’s leading tanneries of crocodile leather, Heng Long. Arnault hasn’t done as well with his more pedestrian investment in supermarket chain Carrefour, which is worth $1 billion less than it was a year ago. Among his personal high-end collection: He owns yacht builder Royal Van Lent, Indigo Island in the Bahamas (rent: $300,000 a week) and ski chalet Cheval Blanc in Courchevel.
5. Name: Amancio Ortega
Net Worth: $37.5 billion (UP)
Ortega stepped down as chairman of his global fashion firm, Inditex, in July 2011, but the company hasn’t missed a beat. Shares are up one fourth in the past year, helping boost his fortune by $6.5 billion and pushing him into the global top 5 ranks for the first time. Ortega paid $536 million to billionaire Esther Koplowitz in December for Torre Picasso, a 43-story skyscraper in Madrid. He also owns Epic Residences & Hotel, a luxury 54-story waterfront condo and hotel development in Miami. Other personal holdings include a stake in a soccer league and a horse-jumping circuit. A railway worker's son, he started as a gofer in a shirt store. With then-wife Rosalia Mera, also a billionaire, he started making dressing gowns and lingerie in his living room. His daughter Marta, who works for Inditex, married Spanish equestrian star Sergio Alvarez Moya in February.
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