Rich/Obscenely Rich Divide Closing

Published on March 12, 2009
by John Paczkowski

billionairebustThe souring economy is closing the divide between the rich and the obscenely rich. Forbes just published its annual list of billionaires and it has 332 fewer names this year than last. “Last year there were 1,125 billionaires,” said Forbes CEO Steve Forbes. “This year, it’s down to 793. The typical billionaire is down at least one-third in their net worth.”

Among those who’ve suffered grotesque losses: Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates, who ranks first on the Forbes list with an estimated net worth of $40 billion despite seeing his fortune decline by some $18 billion. Just behind him, in second place: Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett, who saw his net worth fall $25 billion to $37 billion. Finally, telecom magnate Carlos Slim Helu placed third, with $35 billion, down from $60 billion. Combined losses for the three: $68 billion.

“The world has become a wealth wasteland,” Forbes says in its report. “Like the rest of us, the richest people in the world have endured a financial disaster over the past year.”

If seeing your personal fortune slip to $40 billion from $58 billion is disaster, it’s one I think most of us would happily endure.

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