(2009) Top 10 Richest People in the World

James Ryan Jonas

The world’s richest people are now getting “poorer.”

According to the 2009 Forbes list of The World’s Billionaires, there are now only 793 billionaires around the world — down from 1,132 in the 2008 Richest People list. Their collective net worth is “just” $2.4 trillion, down $2 trillion from last year.

Who are the wealthiest people in the world? Read on.

Top 10 Richest People in 2009

#1. William Gates III

Age: 53
Fortune: self made
Source: Microsoft
Net Worth: $40.0 bil
Country of Citizenship: United States
Industry: Software
Marital Status: married, 3 children

Bill Gates regains title as the world’s richest man after placing 3rd in last year’s list. Stepped down from day-to-day duties at Microsoft last summer to devote his talents and riches to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates decided to increase donations in 2009 to $3.8 billion, up 15% from 2008. Organization’s assets were $30 billion in January. Stock down 45% in past 12 months.

#2. Warren Buffett

Age: 78
Fortune: self made
Source: Berkshire Hathaway
Net Worth: $37.0 bil
Country Of Citizenship: United States
Industry: Investments
Marital Status: widowed, remarried, 3 children

Last year’s world’s richest man has to settle for second place this year after losing $25 billion in 12 months. Shares of Berkshire Hathaway down 45% since last March. Injected billions of dollars into Goldman Sachs, General Electric in exchange for preferred stock last fall; propped up insurance firm Swiss Re in February with $2.6 billion infusion. Admits he made some “dumb” investment mistakes in 2008. Son of Nebraska politician delivered newspapers as a boy. Studied under value investing guru Benjamin Graham at Columbia. Took over textile firm Berkshire Hathaway 1965. Today holding company invested in insurance (GEICO, General Re), jewelry (Borsheim’s), utilities (MidAmerican Energy), food (Dairy Queen, See’s Candies). Also has noncontrolling stakes in Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo.

#3. Carlos Slim Helu

Age: 69
Fortune: self made
Source: telecom
Net Worth: $35.0 bil
Country of Citizenship: Mexico
Industry: Communications
Marital Status: widowed, 6 children

Economic downturn and plunging peso shaved $25 billion from the fortune of Latin America’s richest man. Son of a Lebanese immigrant bought fixed-line operator Telefonos de Mexico (Telmex) in 1990; now controls 90% of Mexico’s telephone landlines. Would be a billionaire based on his dividends alone. Biggest holding: $16 billion stake in America Movil, Latin America’s largest mobile phone company, with 173 million customers. America Movil and Telmex reportedly planning to jointly invest $4 billion to bolster telecom infrastructure in Latin America. Last year took stakes in New York Times Co., former billionaire Anthony O’Reilly’s Independent News & Media and Bronco Drilling; also increased position in Saks.

#4. Lawrence Ellison

Age: 64
Source: Oracle
Net Worth: $22.5 bil
Country of Citizenship: United States
Marital Status: Thrice divorced, remarried; two children

Larry Ellison is co-founder and CEO of software firm Oracle. Company has racked up 49 acquisitions in the past four years. Bought BEA Systems for $8.5 billion last year. Company still sitting on $7 billion in cash. Revenues up 11% to $10.9 billion in the six months ended Nov. 30, 2007; profits also up 11% to $2.4 billion. Stock down 25% in past 12 months.

#5. Ingvar Kamprad

Age: 83
Source: Ikea
Net Worth: $22.0 bil
Country of Citizenship: Sweden
Marital Status: Divorced, remarried; four children

Furniture retail chain IKEA’s founder peddled matches, fish, pens, Christmas cards and other items by bicycle as a teenager. Opened first Ikea store 50 years ago; store’s name is a combination of initials of his first and last name, his family farm and the nearest village. Retired in 1986; company’s “senior adviser” still reportedly works tirelessly on his brand. Revenues up 7% to $27.4 billion in fiscal-year 2008. Opened 10th store in China this February; planning to open first in Dominican Republic later this year. Thrifty entrepreneur flies economy class, frequents cheap restaurants and furnishes his home mostly with Ikea products.

#6. Karl Albrecht

Age: 89
Source: Aldi / Supermarkets
Net Worth: $21.5 bil
Country of Citizenship: Germany
Marital Status: Married, two children

Germany’s richest person owns discount supermarket giant Aldi Sud. Sales in the U.S. up estimated 20% last year to $7 billion. Plans to open 75 U.S. stores in 2009, including first in New York City.

#7. Mukesh Ambani

Age: 51
Source: Petrochemicals
Net Worth: $19.5 bil
Country of Citizenship: India
Marital Status: Married, three children

Oversees Reliance Industries, India’s most valuable company by market cap, despite stock falling 40% in past year. Merging his Reliance Petroleum with flagship Reliance Industries. Late father Dhirubhai founded Reliance and built it into a massive conglomerate. After he died, Mukesh and his brother, Anil, ran the family business together for a brief time. But siblings feuded over control; mother eventually brokered split of assets.

#8. Lakshmi Mittal

Age: 58
Source: Steel
Net Worth: $19.3 bil
Country of Citizenship: India
Marital Status: Married, two children

Indian immigrant heads world’s largest steel company; ArcelorMittal was formed via hostile takeover three years ago. Stock in company makes up bulk of his fortune; shares at a four-year low, with steel prices down 75% since last summer. Arcelor posted $2.6 billion loss in most recent quarter; announced plans to slow acquisitions, cut capital expenditures, pay down debt. Started in family steel business in the 1970s, branched out on his own in 1994. Also owns pieces of Mumbai’s Indiabulls Group, London’s RAB Capital; owns stake in, sits on board of Goldman Sachs.

#9. Theo Albrecht

Age: 87
Source: Aldi / Supermarkets
Net Worth: $18.8 bil
Country of Citizenship: Germany
Marital Status: Married, two children

Runs discount supermarket group Aldi Nord. Sales expected to hit $31 billion in 2008. After World War II he and older brother Karl transformed their mother’s corner grocery into Aldi. Brothers split ownership in 1961; Karl took the stores in southern Germany, plus the rights to the brand in the U.K., Australia and the U.S. Theo got the northern Germany stores and the rest of Europe. Unable to operate Aldi stores in U.S., Theo developed discount food store Trader Joe’s; now has more than 320 U.S. stores. Also owns stake in Supervalu.

#10. Amancio Ortega

Age: 73
Source: Fashion
Net Worth: $18.3 bil
Country of Citizenship: Spain
Marital Status: Divorced, remarried; three children

Spain’s richest man is founder and chairman of the Inditex Group which owns the Zara fashion store chain. Today Inditex has more than 4,000 stores in 71 countries. Sales: $12.3 billion. Railway worker’s son started as a gofer in a shirt store. With then wife Rosalia Mera, also now a billionaire, started making dressing gowns and lingerie in their living room.

Other lists of rich people:

James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.