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The World’s Billionaires: Who ARE These People?
March 7, 2012
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These haven't been easy days for the world's super rich: From last fall's protests against the "1%" to continuing economic turmoil around the globe, sometimes it's been hard out here for a tycoon.

You wouldn't know it, however, from looking at the latest ranking of the world's billionaires from Forbes magazine, an annual tradition that is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. While Carlos Slim, who topped the list for the third time in a row, did see his net worth drop by $5-billion to a measly $69-billion according to the magazine, there were more billionaires overall than ever before, with 1,226 making the cut. (Despite 117 people dropping off the bottom of the list, an extra 128 were added.)

The total net worth of the world's 1,226 richest people? That would be $4.6 TRILLION, which is $100-billion more than last year's list.

So who are these people? A lot of them are American, with 425 of the world's billionaires coming from the United States. Russia, however, came in second with 96 (one more than China), and Moscow is home to more billionaires than any other city, beating out New York and London.

Here are just a few of the list's highlights:

# 1 - Carlos Slim: The Mexican telecommunications magnate stays on top for 2012, despite a lower share price for his chief source of income (American Movil) and fines from the Mexican authorities for monopolistic practices. But as The Economist wrote last month, many Mexicans say that "it's impossible to pass a day without putting money in Mr. Slim's pockets."

#2 - Bill Gates: The poster boy for Forbes' 25th anniversary of the list, Gates has topped the billionaire's club 14 times, although has ceded the No. 1 spot to Slim in recent years (and to Warren Buffett in 2008), but leads in other ways: The magazine calls him "the most generous person on the planet" and devotes most of its summary to the accomplishments of his philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation rather than his business investments. A moral victory?

#3 - Warren Buffett: By many accounts, the star investor known as the "Oracle of Omaha" has had a tough year: His net worth is down $6-billion and he has admitted to being "dead wrong" about the housing market. But he still has $44-billion to his name, and is even the inspiration behind a new approach to wealth distribution championed by the Obama administration - although it's hard to see how the impostion of the "Buffett Rule", which would require the rich to pay more in taxes, would win him friends among his fellow billionaires.

#11 - Christy Walton: The richest woman in the world has 10 men ahead of her in the rankings, but is ahead of everyone else in the Walton family. Most of her wealth comes from Wal-Mart, but some is due to her involvement with a solar power company - which, sadly, was entirely responsible for her losses from 2011. Score a point for bargain shopping over renewable energy.

#35 Mark Zuckerberg: Yep, that kid in the hoodie is worth $17.5-billion, and could soon be worth even more depending on the outcome of Facebook's upcoming initial public offering. Hard for his friends not to like that status.

#100 - Laurene Powell Jobs and family: Steve Jobs' widow owes her ranking on the Forbes list to the inheritance she received from her late husband, currently valued at $9-billion. Her own works sees her involved with several non-profits and with the running of social reform NGO Emerson Collective.

#169 - Silvio Berlusconi and family: Who needs to be the prime minister of Italy when you've got $5.9-billion to help you get by? The lounge singer turned media tycoon resigned from the Italian premiership in November of 2011, when a series of sex scandals, outlandish statements, and the constant threat of criminal prosecution combined with worries over the future of Italy's economy to undermine his leadership. A massive personal fortune seems likely to help him weather the transition.

#1,153 - Sara Blakely: While some of the Forbes list is filled with high-powered investors, moguls and real-estate titans, Sara Blakely made the cut the old-fashioned way: by selling underwear. The founder of Spanx - a line of "body shaping undergarments" - is a former ride greeter at Disney World and one-time door-to-door fax-machine saleswoman who joined the list for the first time this year, thanks to a net worth of $1-billion.

#1,153 - Zhang Guiping: Sure, he technically shares both a ranking and a net worth with Sara Blakely, but the cruelties of the English alphabet place Mr. Zhang last on the Forbes list. However, the $1-billion fortune he has amassed through real estate and hotel investments should help ease the disappointment. Plus, there's nowhere to go but up!


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