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Even the rich got poorer in 2008

March 12, 2009|Tom Petruno

The meltdown of global financial markets slashed the ranks of the world's billionaires by 30% in 2008, Forbes magazine reports in its annual tally of the planet's richest people.

"The world has become a wealth wasteland," Forbes declares in the billionaire report on its website.

"Like the rest of us, the richest people in the world have endured a financial disaster over the past year."

Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates' net worth dived to $40 billion from $58 billion a year earlier.

Despite that decline he reclaimed the title of world's richest man, because two other billionaires lost more, on paper, than Gates did.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chief Executive Warren E. Buffett, who was No. 1 on last year's list, sank to No. 2 as his net worth plunged to $37 billion from $62 billion.

And Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu fell to No. 3, with wealth of $35 billion, down from $60 billion.

Overall, the number of billionaires fell to 793 from 1,125 a year ago, Forbes said. Their collective net worth: $2.4 trillion, a drop of $2 trillion.

But there's good news, of sorts, for the U.S.: "Americans account for 44% of the money and 45% of the list's slots," Forbes said.

After Gates, Buffett and Slim, here's how the list of the 10 richest people rounds out (name, source of wealth and 2008 net worth):

No. 4: Lawrence Ellison, U.S. software giant Oracle Corp., $22.5 billion

No. 5: Ingvar Kamprad, Swedish retailer IKEA, $22 billion

No. 6: Karl Albrecht, German supermarket giant Aldi, $21.5 billion

No. 7: Mukesh Ambani, Indian petrochemicals, $19.5 billion

No. 8: Lakshmi Mittal, Indian steel, $19.3 billion

No. 9: Theo Albrecht, German supermarket giant Aldi and the Monrovia-based Trader Joe's chain in the U.S., $18.8 billion

No. 10: Amancio Ortega, Spanish retailing, $18.3 billion


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