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Forbes' Billionaires List Gets Bigger--And More Diverse

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Source: West Michigan Whitecaps

The ultra-rich are getting richer. And they're growing in number.

The world’s billionaires are worth a total of $3.5 trillion, as strong equity markets, real estate, and commodity prices boosted wealth by $900 billion over the past year, according to Forbes’ annual Billionaires List released Thursday.

Ten-figure membership jumped to a record 946, up 153 from 2006. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates tops the list for the 13th straight year, followed by investment guru Warren Buffett. Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu, at No. 3, boasts the biggest one-year gain--$19 billion--over the past decade.

Two-thirds of last year’s billionaires are richer this year, with net worths up for every member of the top 50. The few exceptions include Paul Allen, whose $4 billion loss pushed him out of the top ten, and fellow tech giant Michael Dell, who plunged 18 spots after losing $1.3 billion. BET founder Robert Johnson and AOL’s Stephen Case are among those who made a comeback after falling from the list.

Symbol
Price
 
Change
%Change
DELL
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DIS
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EBAY
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MSFT
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BB
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SBUX
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TWX
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The list also welcomes 178 newcomers, two of which are in the top ten: Spaniard AmancioOrtega, the name behind fashion franchise Zara, and Canadian David Thomson, who inherited the family’s media empire after his father Kenneth Thomson passed away last year. Starbucks chief Howard Schultz, former Disney head Michael Eisner and Research in Motion co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie also joined the billionaire ranks.

FT_burger.jpg
Source: West Michigan Whitecaps

Entrepreneurship is alive and well, with 60% of this year’s group self-made, 10 of whom are women, including Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Ebay’s Meg Whitman and China’s richest person, Yan Cheung.

Nearly half of the world’s richest people are American, worth some $1.36 trillion--more than a third of total worth.

Perhaps most notable is the wealth shift in Asia. India eclipsed Japan, which for two decades was home to the most billionaires in the region. This year, India has 36, worth $191 billion, while Japan has 24, worth $64 billion.

The ranking of the world's 10 richest people as estimated by Forbes magazine. Listings include rank, name, home country or state, age where known, wealth in billions of dollars and source of the money. The research that went into compiling the rankings began in early 2006 and ended on Feb. 9, 2007.

1. William Gates III, Washington, 51, $56, Microsoft
2. Warren Buffett, Nebraska, 76, $52, Berkshire Hathaway
3. Carlos Slim Helu, Mexico, 67, $49, telecom
4. Ingvar Kamprad and family, Sweden, 80, $33, Ikea
5. Lakshmi Mittal, India, 56, $32, steel
6. Sheldon Adelson, Nevada, 73, $26.5, casinos, hotels
7. Bernard Arnault, France, 58, $26, LVMH
8. Amancio Ortega, Spain, 71, $24, Zara
9. Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong, 78, $23, diversified
10. David Thomson and family, Canada, 49, $22, inheritance