Microsoft founder Bill Gates attends a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in this file photo from January 24. Photo: Reuters
Bill Gates has returned to the top of Forbes magazine's annual list of the world's richest people, as rising stock markets swelled the ranks of billionaires.
Gates reclaimed the title from telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico, who ranked No. 1 for the past four years, according to the 28th Annual World's Billionaires Issue released by Forbes yesterday.
A record 1,645 billionaires with a total net worth of $6.4 trillion made Forbes' list, up from 1,426 last year.
That record breaking number is up from $5.4 trillion last year.
Forbes unearthed a record 268 new ten-figure fortunes, including 42 new women billionaires, another record. In total, there are 172 women on the list, more than ever before and up from 138 last year.
Bill Gates is back on top after a four-year hiatus, reclaiming the title of world’s richest person from telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico, who ranked No. 1 for the past four years.
Gates, whose fortune rose by $9 billion in the past year, has held the top spot for 15 of the past 20 years.
Spanish clothing retailer Amancio Ortega (best known for the Zara fashion chain) retains the No. 3 spot for the second year in a row, extending his lead over Warren Buffett, who is again No. 4.
American gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who added $11.5 billion to his pile, makes it back into the top ten for the first time since 2007.
A record net worth of $31 billion was needed to make the top 20, up from $23 billion last year.
The year’s biggest dollar gainer was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, whose fortune jumped $15.2 billion, to $28.5 billion, as shares of his social network soared.
Tech, and more specifically Facebook, helped propel numerous fortunes lately.
The company’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, joins the ranks for the first time, as does Facebook’s longtime vice president Jeff Rothschild. Also, thanks to a $19 billion deal (including restricted stock) with Facebook, WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton join the ranks of Silicon Valley’s wealthiest for the first time.
They are four of 26 newcomers whose fortunes come from technology, 10 of whom are American, including Dropbox CEO Drew Houston and Workday cofounder Aneel Bhusri.
Thanks to the tech boom, and strong stock market, the US once again leads the world with 492 billionaires, followed by China with 152 and Russia with 111.
But wealth is spreading to new places. Forbes found billionaires for the first time in Algeria, Lithuania, Tanzania and Uganda. Also for the first time, an African, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria, breaks into the top 25. Worth $25 billion, he moves up 20 spots.
Roughly two-thirds of the billionaires built their own fortunes, 13% inherited them and 21% have been adding on to fortunes they received.
Other notable newcomers include World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon, fashion king Michael Kors and Denise Coates of UK online betting firm Bet365.
Still not all countries -- or tycoons -- had good years.
Turkey lost 19 billionaires due to soaring inflation, a sagging stock market and a declining value in its currency. Indonesia, whose currency tumbled 20% against the dollar, now has 8 fewer ten-figure fortunes. Altogether 100 people dropped out of the ranks, while another 16 passed away.