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Robert Trigaux

Even billionaires 'suffer' in this global decline



Johnklugeap Wake up and good morning. Here's one club that's getting  more exclusive again: Billionaires. Forbes magazine's annual list of the world's billionaires is much shorter -- by 30 percent to be exact. No surprise here given the global downturn and the stock market plummet. A whole lotta rich folks fell of the billionaire list, although John Kluge (in photo from AP) did not and as the world's 76th richest fellow remains the biggest billionaire on the Forbes list that claims Florida -- excuse me, Palm Beach -- as his home. More on Florida billionaires below.

From last year's worldwide list of 1,125 billionaires, this year's list fell to just 793 people, says Forbes, "rich enough to make our list." Some quick facts:

* Of the 1,125 billionaires who made last year's ranking, 373 fell off the list--355 from declining fortunes and 18 who died.

* There are 38 newcomers (impressive!), plus three moguls who returned to the list after regaining their 10-figure fortunes.

* It is the first time since 2003 that the world has had a net loss in the number of billionaires.

* The world's richest are also a lot poorer. Their collective net worth is $2.4 trillion, down $2 trillion from a year ago. Their average net worth fell 23 percent to $3 billion. The last time the average was that low was in 2003.

* Bill Gates lost $18 billion but regained his title as the world's richest man. Warren Buffett, last year's No. 1, saw his fortune decline $25 billion as shares of Berkshire Hathaway fell nearly 50% in 12 months. Mexican telecom titan Carlos Slim Helú maintains his spot in the top three but lost $25 billion.

Benniganssptimes Kluge, 94 and with an estimated $6 billion, tops the list of billionaires residing in Florida. Last fall, his fortune was pegged at $9 billion, and he was once the world's richest man. But his Bennigan's and Steak & Ale restaurant chains filed for bankruptcy in July as food prices continue to soar. (Photo: Getty Images.)

According to Forbes, the German immigrant bought a $4 million stake in Metropolitan Broadcasting Corp. in 1959 and renamed Metromedia. After investing in independent TV stations, he started building a restaurant empire with his proceeds in 1988. He donated $400 million to his alma mater Columbia University last year.

Another of Florida's richest to see his wealth dissipate: Micky Arison of Bal Harbour (near Miami Beach). His wealth, built from Carnival Cruise Lines, was estimated at $5 billion last fall by Forbes. Now: $2.9 billion. He ranks 221st on the global billionaire list.

Other Floridians of note include: Malcolm Glazer and family (owner of the Tampa Bay Bucs and Manchester United soccer team), $2.2 billion, down a shade from $2.3 billion last fall and No. 305 worldwide; Wayne Huizenga of Fort Lauderdale, $2 billion, down from $2.2 billion last fall and No. 334 worldwide; and "prince of pesticides" Dennis Albaugh of Marco Island, whose fortune dropped to $1.5 billion from 3.5 billion in just six months, putting him at No. 468 worldwide, says Forbes.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:24am]


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