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Forbes: This Year's Richest People In The World

Forbes     First Posted: 03/ 7/2012 11:04 am   Updated: 03/ 7/2012 11:21 am

Record Numbers, Record Wealth: 128 new billionaires made their debut this year, while 117 dropped out of the ranks. The net result is a record 1,226 billionaires, including the creators of Spanx, Under Armour and 5-Hour Energy.

Fun Gallery: The World's Billionares

A quarter century ago FORBES published our first annual list of the World’s Billionaires—and we found 140. This year the list broke records for the most number of billionaires (1,226) and combined net worth, at $4.6 trillion, up from $4.5 trillion. Behind those numbers is a more complicated story of rapid change among the world’s wealthiest. Innovation, strong consumer brands and a rebounding U.S. stock market helped produce 128 newcomers and brought 17 former members back into the ranks, while falling stock markets, particularly in China and Russia, were the main culprit for knocking 117 billionaires off the list. Another 12 members from the 2011 list passed away, including buyout titan Teddy Forstmann and Apple’s Steve Jobs, whose wife Laurene Powell Jobs takes his spot. Overall, 460 billionaires got richer, 441 got poorer and another 180 held steady.

The World’s Billionaire Women

There are now billionaires from 58 countries. The U.S. is still home to more billionaires than any other country, with 425, a gain of 12. Mainland China and Russia were both clobbered. They have 95 and 96, respectively, down from 115 and 101 last year. The BRIC nations, which were such a force of wealth creation a year ago, have 26 fewer ten-figure fortunes, with only Brazil adding to its bounty.

The World’s Billionaire Newcomers

Carlos Slim Helú of Mexico tops the ranks for the third year in a row, but the gap between him and Bill Gates is tightening again. His fortune, at $69 billion, is down $5 billion from a year ago. He was one of 7 in the top 20 whose fortunes slipped, including Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison.

The World’s Youngest Billionaires

Meanwhile Gates, whose foundation helped wipe out polio in India, was $5 billion richer at $61 billion as Microsoft shares hit a ten-year high. Amancio Ortega, the man behind fast fashion chain Zara, moved into the top 5 for the first time, despite having stepped down as chairman the previous year. India’s Lakshmi Mittal, who runs the world’s largest steel company, ArcelorMittal, was the year’s biggest loser.

His fortune plummeted by $10.4 billion, knocking him out of the top 10 for the first time since 2004. He is ranked No. 21. In a sign that great fortunes can come from almost anywhere, only 3 of the top 10 richest hail from the U.S., one fewer than last year. There are lots of ingenious ways to make fortunes, not the least of which is using a popular brand to cater to a world full of consumers. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is worth $17.5 billion, up $4 billion from a year ago; he may be worth far more once Facebook goes public this spring. Notable newcomers with stellar brands include Kevin Plank, founder of trendy sportswear maker Under Armour, and Sara Blakely, with her Spanx line of newfangled girdles. Blakely, 41, is the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire. Another notable woman in the ranks is Miuccia Prada, who returns to the list after a six-year absence.

Two American immigrants to make their debut are the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Shahid Khan, who came from Pakistan when he was 16 and is the first minority immigrant owner of an NFL team, and 5-Hour Energy’s Manoj Bhargava, who emigrated as a boy from India.

The World’s Billionaire Dropoffs

A note on methodology:

More than 50 reporters in 16 countries worked on compiling the list this year, valuing individuals' public holdings, private companies, real estate, yachts, art and cash. Net worths were locked in using stock prices and exchange rates from Feb. 14. Click here to see the rest of the World’s Billionaires

See below for the five wealthiest billionaires in the world, according to FORBES:

5. Amancio Ortega
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Net Worth: $37.5 billion UP
Source: Zara
Citizenship: Spain

Ortega stepped down as chairman of his global fashion firm, Inditex, in January 2011, but the company hasn't missed a beat. Shares are up one fourth in the past year, helping boost his fortune by $6.5 billion and pushing him into the global top 5 ranks for the first time. Ortega paid $536 million to billionaire Esther Koplowitz in December for Torre Picasso, a 43-story skyscraper in Madrid. He also owns Epic Residences & Hotel, a luxury 54-story waterfront condo and hotel development in Miami. Other personal holdings include a stake in a soccer league and a horse-jumping circuit. A railway worker's son, he started as a gofer in a shirt store. With then-wife Rosalia Mera, also a billionaire, he started making dressing gowns and lingerie in his living room. His daughter Marta, who works for Inditex, married Spanish equestrian star Sergio Alvarez Moya in February.
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Filed by Harry Bradford  |