The biggest losers? Try 355 ex-billionaires

Wed Mar 11, 2009 6:20pm EDT
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Carnage in economies and stock markets worldwide has united 355 of the world's wealthiest people in a new way: they're now ex-billionaires.

Forbes magazine on Wednesday said the 355, ranging from former Citigroup Inc chief Sanford "Sandy" Weill to Russian tycoon and ex-KGB agent Alexander Lebedev to accused Ponzi scheme mastermind Allen Stanford have fallen off its annual survey of the uber-rich.

Death claimed 18 more members. Some 41 people joined the list. That left the tally of billionaires worldwide at 793, worth a collective $2.4 trillion, down from 1,125 people, worth $4.4 trillion, a year earlier.

The damage was widespread, with dropoffs including former American International Group Inc chief Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, former Walt Disney Co chief Michael Eisner, private equity investor J. Christopher Flowers, and India's Vijay Mallya, who controls Kingfisher Airlines Ltd.

Not even the world's richest people had a great year. The collective net worth of Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway Inc Chairman Warren Buffett and Mexico tycoon Carlos Slim slid 38 percent, to $112 billion from $180 billion.

The biggest loser in dollars is Anil Ambani, chairman of India's Reliance Communications Ltd, whose net worth slid $31.9 billion to $10.1 billion. India's Lakshmi Mittal, who chairs steelmaker ArcelorMittal SA, lost $25.7 billion, while Buffett, Slim and KP Singh of India real estate developer DLF Ltd lost $25 billion each.

By country, the billionaire roll fell to 359 from 469 in the United States, to 32 from 87 in Russia and to 24 from 53 in India. Net declines were 123 in the Americas, 102 in Europe, 81 in the Asia-Pacific area and 26 in the Middle East and Africa.