NEW YORK — Six of the 10 richest people in the world are Japanese but the United States still leads the world in the total number of billionaires, according to estimates compiled by Forbes magazine.
For the third straight year, Yoshiaki Tsutsumi led Forbes' list of private billionaires even though his wealth wasn't reported to be quite as great as had been estimated 12 months ago.
Tsutsumi, head of Japan's Seibu Railway Group, has a personal net worth of at least $15 billion--nearly $4 billion less than estimated last summer due mainly to a rise in the value of the dollar against other major currencies, Forbes said Sunday.
The estimate was far greater than the $2.8 billion that Fortune magazine had reported as Tsutsumi's worth in its September, 1988, ranking of those whom it considered to be the world's richest people.
In last year's list, Forbes estimated Tsutsumi's net worth at $18.9 billion.
The magazine reports in its July 24 issue that Tsutsumi edged out second-ranked Taikichiro Mori by less than $1 billion.
Mori, a former economics professor who owns 72 office buildings in Tokyo, has an estimated net worth of $14.2 billion. In last year's survey, Forbes placed Mori's worth at about $18 billion.
Walton No. 3
The third-richest on the list was American Sam Moore Walton, founder of the third-largest retail operation in the United States, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Walton and his family are worth an estimated $8.7 billion, up from Forbes' 1988 estimate of $6.5 billion.
After the Waltons came Canada's Reichmann brothers, owners of the Olympia & York real estate empire, with a combined net worth of about $8 billion.
The remainder of the 10 richest people in the world, their country and industries, according to Forbes, were: Shin Kyuk-ho, South Korea, candy, real estate, $8 billion; Hirotomo Takei and family, Japan, publishing, real estate, $7.8 billion; Kitaro Watanabe, Japan, real estate, hotels, $7 billion-plus; Haruhiko Yoshimoto and family, Japan, real estate, $7 billion; Hans and Gad Rausing, Sweden, liquids packaging, $7 billion; and Eitaro Itoyama, Japan, land, $6.6 billion.
Forbes said it identified 226 individuals or families around the world with personal assets worth in excess of $1 billion.
The United States was the country with the most billionaires, with 55 individuals qualifying for that title. Japan ranked second with 41, and West Germany was third with 20.
America also accounted for the most billionaires in the 1988 survey, 47, followed by Japan's 32 and West Germany's 16.
Among the richest of the world's rich are people who didn't necessarily come by their money in an honest way.
Not All Legitimate
Colombia's cocaine barons, for instance, are still putting away piles of money from selling the illegal drug even though profit margins in the cocaine trade have been shrinking in recent years.
Three of them made Forbes "World Billionaires" list, including Pablo Escobar Gaviria, leader of the notorious Medellin cocaine cartel, with an estimated personal net worth of $3 billion.
In compiling its list, Forbes does not consider royal families and heads of state "because their wealth derives more from political heritage than from economic effort."