As 2014 hurdles along, Forbes has tracked this year's richest billionaires, whose fortunes far surpass what the average person might make in a hundred lifetimes. Using a set date in 2014, Forbes locks in stock prices and exchange rates from around the world to determine the scales of wealth. Reporters also factor in stakes in public and private companies, real estate, yachts (yes, that’s its own category), and art, as well as taking note of estimates of debt.
Although many of the best-known billionaires in the world are American, extreme wealth exists all around the world. Indeed, over the years, not only have the rich gotten richer, but the locations in which billionaires can be found have also diversified to new parts of the globe. Currently, though, the United States does lead the world in number of billionaires thanks to the tech boom and strong stock market, with a whopping 492 billionaires. However, Forbes researchers this year found new billionaires in a number of countries such as Algeria, Lithuania, Tanzania, and Uganda. That being said, certain countries were less successful this year: Turkey lost 19 billionaires due to a rise in inflation and thus a decline in the value of its currency. Indonesia also lost 8 ten-figure fortunes since its currency fell 20% below the dollar. Altogether, researchers found 1,645 billionaires total with an aggregate net worth of $6.4 trillion, a significant increase from the previous year’s $5.4 trillion. Here are just a few of the richest billionaires in their respective countries.
10 United Kingdom: Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, real estate ($13.1B)
Major-General Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster, is a British landowner and owner of property company Grosvenor Group. According to the Sunday Times Rich List 2014, his fortune makes him the richest member of the peerage, with significantly more money than Queen Elizabeth! On Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires, he ranks as the richest in the United Kingdom. He's also the wealthiest property developer in the UK and one of the country’s largest landowners. He owns land in Oxford, Cheshire, Mayfair, Belgravia, and in Scotland (in which he has 96,000 acres!), as well as other countries in Europe such as Spain, where he owns 32,000 acres.
9 9. China: Wang Jianlin, real estate/self-made ($15.9B)
Jianlin is currently the wealthiest man in China. He owns 75 department stores, 85 shopping plazas, and 52 five-star hotels. In 2012, he purchased the U.S. movie chain AMC and listed it on the New York Stock Exchange. Despite his current success, Jianlin came from modest beginnings. He was born in Sichuan Province in 1954, shortly after the Communist Revolution. Wang served in the military for 16 years, and then began to work in a city government job. In 1989 he became the chairman of Wanda, a government-run company, at only 35. His entrepreneurial skills paid off, as the company now boasts $48 billion in assets.
8 Australia: Gina Rinehart, mining ($18.6B)
Gina Rinehart, the wealthiest billionaire down under, is also the sixth richest woman in the world. She inherited her holding from her father, Lang Hancock. Rinehart is the executive chairwoman of Hancock Prospecting, a mineral exploration and extraction company, which is now adding oil and gas to its mining pursuits. She is about to finalize a $7 billion debt package to develop one of the world’s largest iron ore mines, Roy Hill, of which Hancock owns 70%. Rinehart has expressed some controversial political opinions, especially with regard to government taxation. In 2012 in Australian Resources and Investment Magazine, Rinehart criticized what she deemed “socialist” tendencies in the Australian government of “high taxes” and “excessive regulation.” More recently she spoke out against the government’s $130 billion annual welfare bill, accusing many in the nation of an “entitlement mentality.”
7 Germany: Dieter Schwarz, retail ($21B)
Dieter Schwarz is the CEO and owner of the Schwarz Group (Schwarz-Gruppe). The company was founded by his father, Josef, whom he succeeded in 1977; it is comprised of the supermarket chain Lidl and department store chain Kaufland. The Group boasts a revenue of over $90 billion. Additionally, the Schwarz Foundation supports education and daycare facilities for children. Schwarz is extremely private and rarely makes any public appearances; in fact, there are only two photographs of him known to exist in the public sphere! He lives in Neckarsulm, Germany, with his wife and two children.
6 India: Mukesh Ambani, petrochemicals, oil and gas ($23.8B)
Mukesh Ambani is the chairman and largest shareholder of Reliance Industries Ltd, a Fortune Global 500 Company, which is also India’s second most valuable by market value. RIL deals mainly in refining, petrochemicals, and oil and gas sectors. Ambani has faced criticism and even a lawsuit regarding the intentions of the company. Recently, it faced a criminal investigation instigated by the founder of India’s Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man Party) – a party which crusades against corruption – who alleged that Ambani was “running the government.” Although his fortune has declined in the past year (by about $2.9 billion), Ambani remains the wealthiest man in India and second richest in Asia. He has also reported plans to invest $25 billion in his businesses over the next 2 years.
5 Canada: David Thomson, media ($24.1B)
David Thomson and his family are the owners of the media and publishing fortune founded by their grandfather Roy Thomson. Thomson serves as chair of the third-generation family business, the Thomson-Reuters Corporation. Thomson Reuters stock makes up about 70% of the family’s fortune. Indeed, as of February 2014, its stock has risen by approximately 20% in the past year. Thomson maintains a relatively low public profile and has rarely given interviews to the press. He is also known for his diverse art collection; he reportedly owns the world’s top collection of the English Romantic painter John Constable.
4 France: Liliane Bettencourt, L'Oreal ($38.1B)
Bettencourt is a French heiress, socialite, and businesswoman. Until recently, she was also one of the principal shareholders of L’Oreal. Liliane Bettencourt is no longer the world’s richest woman, nor is she directly involved in running the company. Unfortunately, a legal ruling in 2011 deemed her unfit to manage her affairs since she suffers from dementia. She was replaced on the company’s board by her 25-year-old grandson, Jean-Victor Meters, in February of 2012. Reportedly, the family’s holdings in the company will increase in 2014 with Nestle’s planned sale of its 8% stake.
3 Spain: Amancio Ortega, retail/self-made ($60.8B)
Ortega started out as a gofer in a shirt store and is now the world’s richest retailer. Though he stepped down as chairman, Ortega is still the owner of nearly 60% of the shares of the immensely successful company Inditex, which is best known for its Zara brand. He also maintains an impressive real estate portfolio worth nearly $5 billion. He owns 26 properties as of 2014. Among them are the Torre Picasso, a 43-story skyscraper in Madrid (in which Google is a tenant), as well as four newly purchased multi-million dollar buildings in Madrid, New York, and London.
2 United States: Bill Gates, Microsoft ($79.6B)
Entrepreneur Bill Gates, co-founder of the world’s largest software business, Microsoft, has been the richest man in the world for many consecutive years, excluding only a few, since 1995. During his time at Microsoft, Gates was the company’s CEO and chief software architect. Though he stepped down as CEO in January 2000, he is still the largest shareholder, with 6.4% of the common stock. His last full day at Microsoft was in June of 2008. Gates has also handled his enormous wealth with impressive generosity. In 1994, Gates and his wife established the William H. Gates foundations, which was dedicated to supporting education, world health, and investment in low-income communities. In 2000, the couple combined a number of family foundations and established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which they kick started with a modest 28 billion dollar contribution.
1 Mexico: Carlos Slim Helu, Telecom ($80.5B)
Helu’s run as the world’s richest person seemed to have ended, as the shares of his mining company, Minera Frisco, fell more than 50% in 2013 as a result of the plummeting price of gold and copper. Plus, his largest asset, pan-Latin American telecom firm America Movil, dipped significantly in value. Despite these setbacks, however, Helu still boasts a serious net worth. As of 2014 he has a larger fortune than Bill Gates. America Movil has 70% or more market share of both the landline and mobile markets in Mexico. He also holds minority stakes in U.S companies Saks Fifth Avenue and The New York Times Co.
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