Forbes' richest people: number of billionaires up significantly

Forbes' richest people: the list is out and many familiar names are on it. Not much has changed at the very top. There are a record 1,645 billionaires worldwide, with the US the top supplier.

Bebeto Matthews/AP/File
Bill Gates, shown in New York, Jan. 21, 2014, tops Forbes' richest people list this year as the richest man in the world – again.

Forbes, the unofficial temperature-taker of the world’s fiscal upper echelons, released on Monday its annual list of the world’s richest people and, separately, a list of the 400 richest Americans.

Not all that much has changed at the top.

Bill Gates, worth about $76 billion, is the richest man in the world, according to this year’s list. If that sounds familiar, it should, because Mr. Gates has topped that list for the past two decades, but for a four-year loss to telecom mogul Carlos Slim, according to Forbes. Mr. Slim is second this year, valued at $72 billion.

Spain's Amancio Ortego, of the Zara fashion outlet , came in at third at $64 billion – just as he did last year. Warren Buffett, who has placed in the Top 5 for the past 20 years, is the fourth wealthiest person in the world and the second richest American, at about $58 billion.

Oracle's Larry Ellison, Charles and David Koch, gambling giant Sheldon Anderson, and Christy and Jim Walton, each valued at more than $34 billion, rounded out the Top 10 on the world list.

A total of 1,645 billionaires, with an average net worth of $4.7 billion, made Forbes’ list of world’s richest, now in its 32nd year. That's up from 1,426 in 2013. Meanwhile, 100 ex-billionaires were dropped from the world list from last year, and 34 Americans dropped out of the US Top 400, according to Forbes.

Of the newcomers, 35 came out of the retail sector and 26 newly (extremely) rich hailed from the tech business, including Dropbox CEO Drew Houston and WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton, Forbes said.

Newbies to the American list included Richard Yuengling, who owns a beer company, and NYC real estate mogul Jeff Sutton. Almost half (eight) of the American additions to the 400 list inherited the fortunes that launched them into the proverbial VIP room, Forbes reported.

Dropouts from the world list were concentrated in the Asia/Pacific, with 47 (somewhat) less wealthy people coming from there. Dropouts from the US list include oilman T. Boone Pickens, now valued at $950 million; 5-Hour Energy drink founder Manoj Bhargava, at $800 million; and AOL founder Steve Case, at $1.2 billion.

Forbes called Mr. Case’s value “still very respectable, but not enough to make the cut of the 2013 Forbes 400.”

The nationalities represented on the list have also changed little. The US is still the world’s biggest supplier of big billionaires, with 492 names on the world list, and the US added the most billionaires to the list this year, putting up 50 new names. China, which added 37 new names, ranked behind the US at No. 2 with 152 billionaires, and Russia with 111, Forbes reported.

The 400 wealthiest Americans are together worth about $2 trillion, an increase of some $300 billion over last year, Forbes reported. That’s enough to fund the NASA budget for 2014 about 113 times over.

Indeed, if there is any measurable temperature change up there in the so-called 1 percent, it’s that the fantastically rich have gotten a bit more fantastically so: The aggregate net worth of the richest people was at $6.4 trillion this year, up from $5.4 trillion last year, according to Forbes.

And the minimum net worth needed to make the 400 list of richest Americans this year was $1.3 billion, a height not seen since before the fiscal bust in 2008 and that kept 61 US billionaires – rich, but just not quite rich enough – off the list, Forbes said.

Plus, just 30 of the repeats from last year’s 400-list are making less than they did when they appeared on the list a year ago. And of the 28 American wheelers and dealers who failed to make the cut this year, just 15 of them were, in fact, poorer than when they made the list last year, Forbes reported.

So, it appears to be a good time to be a billionaire. It’s less a good time, however, to be a magazine about billionaires.

The annual list of the richest of the rich comes about four months after Forbes, reporting lackluster revenue in dark days for traditional media, announced that it was up for sale. The self-styled scorekeeper of American super-wealth is expected to sell to a foreign buyer, possibly in China or Singapore, for about half of the some $400 million it had hoped to fetch, The New York Times reported. 

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