World's richest not so rich, Gates regains top spot

Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:54pm EDT
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By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates is the richest man again, overtaking investor Warren Buffett, as the global financial meltdown wiped out $2 trillion from the net worth of the world's billionaires, Forbes Magazine said on Wednesday.

The number of billionaires in the world fell by nearly a third to 793 in the past year, with large numbers dropping off the list in Russia, India and Turkey.

Gates regained his title as the richest man in the world, with $40 billion after slipping to third last year when he was worth $58 billion. Buffett, last year's richest man, fell to second place with $37 billion, down from $62 billion. Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim took third place with $35 billion, down from $60 billion.

Collectively, the top three billionaires lost $68 billion in the year to February 13, when Forbes took a snapshot of wealth around the world to compile its annual list of billionaires.

Chief Executive of Forbes Magazines Steve Forbes said that, while few would shed a tear for the plight of a billionaire, it was bad for the economy when entrepreneurs were in trouble.

"Billionaires don't have to worry about their next meal, but if their wealth is declining and you're not creating numerous new billionaires, it means the rest of the world is not doing very well," he told reporters. "The typical billionaire is down at least one third on their net worth."

The net worth of the world's billionaires fell from $4.4 trillion to $2.4 trillion, while the number of billionaires was down to 793 from 1,125.

"It's the first time since 2003 that we have lost billionaires, but we've never before lost anywhere near this number," said Luisa Kroll, senior editor of Forbes.   Continued...

<p>Microsoft founder Bill Gates speaks during a news conference at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 30, 2009. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann</p>