10 World’s Richest Men (2009)

10 richest men in the world ranked

The economy has been hard on everyone the past 12 months, the uber-rich included. The ranks of those maintaining billionaire status has taken a big hit, as the number of billionaires has fallen 30% from a year ago.

In 2008 there were 1,125 billionaires. Today just 793 billionaires remain with a total net worth of $2.4 trillion, a whopping decrease of $2 trillion.

The failing economy was particularly devastating for those heavily invested in Wall Street. Maurice (Hank) Greenberg, former head of AIG, watched his $1.9 billion fortune crash to less then $100 million. The biggest loser, however, was India’s Anil Ambani. Ambani suffered through a 76% loss of net worth last year, losing $32 billion. Ironically, in 2008 Ambani was the biggest gainer.

India in general was a big financial loser, as India’s stock market fell 44%. Combined with 18% depreciation in the Indian rupee against the dollar, India saw 29 countrymen lose their billionaire status this year. Last year there were four billionaire’s in the top-10 list, this year just two remain.

Russia also suffered heavily, as two-thirds of it’s billionaires fell from the ranks. Last year Moscow was the leading city for billionaires with 74. Today there are only 27. Seven Russians were ranked in the top-25 in 2008 but none of them remain today. Oleg Deripaska was ranked 9th in 2008 with $20.8 billion, but fell to 134th with $3.5 billion in 2009, good enough for only 10th in his own country.

The U.S. lost 110 billionaires form a year ago, however it actually improved in relation to overall wealth. This year 45% of the billionaires come from the U.S., accounting for 44% of the wealth. Three of the top four wealthiest are from the U.S. in 2009, and there are 11 billionaires from the U.S. in the top-25 compared to just four last year.

Here is the list of Forbes’ 10 richest men in the world for the year 2009:

1. Bill Gates (US) – $40 billion

bill gates

After spending the previous year as only the third richest man in the world, Gates returned to the top spot once again despite losing $18 billion over the previous 12 months. Although still the chairman of Microsoft, Gates, who spent 13 straight years as the richest man in the world before losing the title last year, gave up day-to-day management of his company in 2008.

He now spends his time giving money away through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2009 the organization gave away $3.8 billion, an increase of 15% over 2008. Gates has also started to diversify his portfolio by selling Microsoft shares quarterly and investing elsewhere. Today only about half of his wealth is from his stake in Microsoft.

2. Warren Buffett (US) – $37 billion


The world’s most respected investor finally supplanted Gates as the wealthiest man in the world in 2008, only to follow it up with a $25 billion loss over the previous 12 months. Admitting that he made some “dumb” investments last year, the “Oracle of Omaha” watched his Berkshire Hathaway shares fall a whopping 45%. Despite his fall from the top, Buffett remains positive about the future of the American economy, and with his past successes you can bet he will be challenging for the top spot a year from now.

3. Carlos Slim Helu (Mexico) – $35 billion


Helu might be considered the phone company in Mexico, as he has a 90% stake in Telmex, a fixed line operator, as well as a $16 billion stake in Latin America’s largest mobile phone company called America Movil. Despite his dominance in a rapidly growing business segment, Helu saw his net worth fall $25 billion during the economic turbulence and subsequent fall of the peso. Helu, who’s classic rags-to-riches story gives hope to all of us, has continued to be aggressive in the market, investing $4 billion to improve Latin America’s telecom infrastructure.

4. Lawrence Ellison (US) – $22.5 billion


While most people have been holding onto their cash, Ellison has continued his aggressive buying spree. Over the past four years Ellison’s database giant Oracle has devoured 49 companies. Despite this buying binge, Oracle is sitting on a whopping $7 billion in cash. Ellison wasn’t in the top-10 of billionaires last year, but moved up thanks to Oracles 11% increase in revenues and only a 25% drop in stock prices. The fiery Ellison is a boating fanatic, owning the 453-foot superyacht Rising Sun as well as a 90-foot trimaran he hopes to use to win the upcoming America’s Cup.

5. Ingvar Kamprad (Sweden) – $22 billion


Kamprad was one of the lucky ones – he only lost $9 billion last year. The unpretentious founder of IKEA moved up two spots in 2009 thanks to his company’s 7% increase in revenues in 2008. The dyslexic 83 year old, who actually retired in 1986, started his career selling items such as pens and matches from his bicycle as a teenage. Kamprad moved on to selling furniture in 1947 and finally opened his own store, the first IKEA, 50 years ago.

Today IKEA is in 36 countries, with the 37th coming in the form of the Dominican Republic in late 2009. Despite his wealth, Kamprad is known to fly economy class and remains a frequent guest of cheap restaurants. He even furnishes his own home with IKEA’s inexpensive products.

6. Karl Albrecht (Germany) – $21.5 billion


German’s riches man just made the top-10 billionaires list last year. Despite losing $5.5 billion of his net worth, Karl Albrecht moved up four spots in 2009. Owner of Aldi Sud, a discount supermarket chain, Albrecht saw increased sales of 9.4% worldwide, including an estimated increase in the US of 20%. Very little is known about this recluse, as he chooses to stay out of the public’s eye, instead choosing to raise orchids and play golf.

Albrecht and his brother took over their mother’s corner grocery store shortly after World War II in Aldi, Germany. After growing into a national discount store, the two brothers parted ways in 1961, splitting ownership, with Karl getting southern Germany, the U.K., U.S. and Australia, while brother Theo got the rights to northern Germany and the rest of Europe.

7. Mukesh Ambani (India) – $19.5 billion


Despite a loss of almost $24 billion from last year, Mukesh Ambani remains in the top ten in 2009, falling two spots. This native of India with a Bachelors degree from the University of Bombay, dropped out of Stanford while going for a Masters degree. Luckily he inherited Reliance Industries from his late father Dhirubhai.

As the head of India’s most valuable company, Ambani has seen his wealth drop severely as India’s wealth in general has taken a huge hit. Despite that and Reliance’s 40% drop in stock value, Ambani is still working on completion of his 27-story, $1 billion home. His brother Anil was sixth on last year’s list, coming in at $42 billion. Anil, you might recall, was the biggest loser for billionaires, dropping $32 billion to come in at just 34th in 2009.

8. Lakshmi Mittal (India) – $19.3 billion


Like Ambani, Lakshmi Mittal had a rough year, losing almost $27 billion and falling from fourth on the list last year to eighth in 2009. Also like his countryman, Mittal inherited his fortune but continues to grow it’s net worth. Although from India, Mittal resides in London where he heads ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company. With steel prices down 75% this year, Mittal has watched the stock price of his company fall to a 4-year low. Despite his losses, Mittal still lives well, residing in a posh 12-bedroom mansion in Kensington, for which he paid $130 million.

9. Theo Albrecht (Germany) – 18.8 billion


Theo Albrecht jumped into the number nine spot this year by losing less money then most of his fellow billionaires – slightly more then $4 billion. Brother and former partner of Karl, this year’s sixth richest man, Theo is also riding the discount supermarket train. The Aldi brand was Karl’s to use in the U.S., so Theo went on to develop Trader Joe’s to compliment his Aldi holdings in northern Germany and Europe. Like his brother, Theo is somewhat of a recluse.

His reason for staying out of the limelight is understandable, as in 1971 he was kidnapped. He was released 17 days later after a $3 million ransom was paid. He has rarely been seen since. It is said that he enjoys collecting old typewriters.

10. Amancio Ortega (Spain) – $18.3 billion


Amancio Ortega made the biggest jump of this years top-10, and also lost the least. In 2008 Ortega was 22nd on the list at $20.2 billion, losing just $1.9 billion over the previous 12 months. The 73-year-old Spaniard heads the highly successful apparel manufacturer Zara. With over 4,000 stores in 71 countries, sales actually rose this year to $12.3 billion.

Despite Zara’s stock pricing going up 1%, Ortega’s wealth still fell due to the weakening euro. Ortega got his start as a grunt worker in a shirt store. He soon started making lingerie and dressing gowns with his former wife, Rosalia Mera, in the living room of their home. Mera, by the way, is also currently a billionaire, coming in at 246th on this year’s list with $2.6 billion.

3 Replies to “10 World’s Richest Men (2009)”

  1. I’ve noticed that these billionaires had big losses last year. Does this mean that business was really that bad in 2008? Bill Gates reclaims his number one spot from being number 3 a year ago, congrats to him. Good that he gives a lot of his money to others and that is really a good purpose.

  2. Rich people should contribute their wealth to the poor so that it has more meaning to their lives and so that it will pleases God in heaven.

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