What could a Chinese dumpling maker and Mexican telecom mogul possibly have in common? They're among a record number of wealthy people who held the title of billionaire over the past year. The tally of billionaires around the globe reached a high of 946, their combined wealth growing 35% to $3.5 trillion, according to Forbes magazine's 2007 rankings of the world's richest people.
The rich cashed in on strong equity markets, real estate and commodity prices worldwide, according to Forbes billionaires co-editor Luisa Kroll.
"It's just been kind of an extraordinary year for markets worldwide," she said.
Leading the list are two men who manage to keep getting richer as they give more and more money away. Microsoft founder Bill Gates ranked No. 1 for the 13th straight year, beating out friend and fellow philanthropist Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.
Gates's fortune rose $6 billion to $56 billion last year, while Buffett garnered in an additional $10 billion to boost his net worth to $52 billion.
Only five Americans ranked in the top 20, though they account for 44% of the overall list.
Breathing down Buffett's neck was Mexican telecom giant Carlos Slim Helu, who added $19 billion to his existing fortune, the largest one-year gain over the past decade. With $49 billion to his name, Helu was just $3 billion shy of the No. 2 spot.
Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner joined the ranks of the world's richest for the first time, behind new faces Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, Canadian co-chiefs of Blackberry maker Research In Motion.