Fewer Billionaires on Forbes' Richest List

One trillion, four-hundred billion dollars vanished over the past year — at least on paper — from the aggregated wealth of the world's shrinking population of billionaires, according to an annual list of such fortunate souls compiled by Forbes. The list is smaller this year, by about 30%. The 2008 list had 1,125 billionaires. The new list has just 793 — including 33 who tied for last place.

There are, perhaps, a billion ways to slice and dice the list. Examples: New York now has more billionaires than Moscow; Bill Gates displaced Warren Buffett in the number-one position. But the most interesting thing about the list, according to the Financial Times' Alphaville blog, is how much was lost by some of the individual billionaires. Says the blog, citing Forbes figures, "…the biggest loser – who still managed to make the list — is Anil Ambani, owner of India’s Reliance Infrastructure, who … lost a cool $32 [billion]. Then comes Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, at No. 8, who lost $25.7 [billion] during the past year  [billion] reducing his wealth to just $3.5 [billion]."

To be sure, it's been a tough year, and the 2010 list seems likely to show more losses and fewer billionaires. Still, many of these wealthy folks are probably having serious chats with their SFOs — Single Family Offices — which, as a Knowledge at Wharton article reported last spring, play an essential role in the investment strategies of the world's wealthiest families.

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