Bill Gates named world's richest man

Monday 03 March 2014 16.23
Bill Gates has been ranked the world's richest man for 15 of the past 20 years
Bill Gates has been ranked the world's richest man for 15 of the past 20 years

The surging price of Microsoft shares has returned US tech tycoon Bill Gates back to the top of Forbes's world's billionaires list, with his $76 billion beating out Mexico's Carlos Slim's $72 billion.

The annual list counted 1,645 men and women as billionaires, with an average wealth of $4.5 billion and a collective wealth of $6.4 trillion, up $1 trillion from a year ago.

Mr Gates, co-founder of the US software firm, showed his staying power at the top - the world's richest man for 15 of the past 20 years, according to Forbes - despite spending recent years giving away large sums of money to global health and anti-poverty programs.

Mr Gates owns about 4.4% of Microsoft, making up less than 20% of his total fortune.

But the company's share price has risen 25% over the past year, and, along with gains in other assets, he has added $7 billion to his fortune since a year ago, according to Forbes.

Mr Slim, with a hand in everything from telecommunications (America Movil) to mining, finance and industry (Grupo Carso), to retailing and real estate across the Americas region, was worth $1 billion less than a year ago, hit in part by sagging markets in South America.

In third was Spain's Amancio Ortega, whose pockets have filled with profits from fashion: his hugely successful Inditex garment empire, parent of popular chains Zara, Pull & Bear, and Bershka. 

More recently, Mr Ortega heavily invested in real estate in Europe and the United States; his worth was put at $64 billion.

A familiar cast of mega-wealthy filled out the rest of the top ten: US investment guru Warren Buffett ($58.2 billion); software group Oracle's founder and chief executive Larry Ellison ($48 billion); US industrialists and brothers Charles and David Koch (each with $40 billion); Las Vegas casino king Sheldon Adelson ($38 billion); Walmart heiress Christy Walton ($36.7 billion) and her brother Jim Walton ($34.7 billion).

Together the $507 billion held by the top ten is larger than the entire size of the economy of Norway, or Belgium or Poland in 2012.

Forbes found 1,645 billionaires in total – 172 of which were women.

Five Irishmen make billionaire list

With a net worth of $12.8 billion, Pallonji Mistry was ranked as the richest Irish person in the world and 82nd overall. Mr Mistry, who has a significant shareholding in Tata Motors and is chairman of construction firm Shapoorji Pallonji Group, became an Irish citizen in 2003.

Denis O’Brien is the second wealthiest Irishman with a net worth of $6 billion – ranking him 234th overall – largely due to his Digicel phone network.

Campbells Soup heir John Dorrance III was the third wealthiest Irishman with $2.5 billion. He moved to Ireland two decades ago, prior to selling his stake in the food company.

Glen Dimplex founder Martin Naughten was fourth amongst the Irish, with a net worth of $2.2 billion, while investor Dermot Desmond was ranked fifth with $2 billion – putting him 869th richest overall.