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12 Mar, 2009 08:20

Gates regains title as the world's richest man

The world's super-rich have suffered badly during the financial crisis. But by exactly how much has just become a little clearer after Forbes Magazine unveiled its annual list of the ups and down in the business world.

The magazine revealed that the world has lost more than 300 billionaires! The world now has 793 billionaires, down from 1,125 a year ago.

This year the world's billionaires have an average net worth of $3 billion, down 23% in 12 months.

Despite the U.S. being the epicenter of the financial meltdown, Americans are regaining their dominance as the repository of wealth. In 2009, they account for 44% of all money and 45% of the list's billionaire slots.

Though the financial crisis wiped out much wealth, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Carlos Slim Helú are still on top.

Bill Gates lost $18 billion, but regained his title as the world's richest man. Buffett, last year's No. 1, saw his fortune decline $25 billion and finished in second place in 2009. Mexican telecom titan Carlos Slim Helú maintains his spot in the top three, but lost $25 billion as well.

Amid the American businessmen’s relative success this year, Russians look unconvincing, as not one of them made it to the top 20.

Moreover, Russia has lost two thirds of its billionaires in just one year, pushing Moscow to third place in the list of cities ranked by billionaire residents.

A feast in a time of plague?

The Russian capital, tagged by Forbes magazine as ‘Billionaires' city’, is certainly being hit by the global economic crisis, but does that mean Russia's wealthiest are losing their taste for luxury?

Sales managers at one of Russia's leading real estate agencies, selling expensive property worldwide, say the interest towards luxurious homes has almost doubled in the last few months.

“They are buying much more because it is a good opportunity for them. Prices for some property have halved in just a year,” says Elena Yurgeneva from Knight Frank real estate.

To many, bagging prime property at bargain basement prices seems to be the right move during times like these, when shares are melting and currencies are fluctuating. Aleksey, who sells top-of-the-range cars, says the latest discounts are a magnet for his clients:

“The cars in this class will probably never again cost as little as they do now. Prices have dropped by 30% on average. Crisis or not, we have no shortage of clients,” said Aleksey from Konig Motor car sales.

‘Big money likes silence’

While wealthy men tend to show off their riches, many prominent Russian businessmen still think one should keep schtum over one’s earnings. Attempts by publications like Forbes magazine to measure their pockets have upset some.

Yury Pripachkin co-owns a leading Russian telecoms group, and was once listed by the Russian edition of Forbes as being one of the country's richest men, but he says labels like that can do more harm than good to business:

“To me the 'rich man tag' is somewhat irritating. Maybe because I, as well as many of my friends who are wealthy people, were born in Soviet times and we never treated money as the goal of everything. For us the most important part was always the work itself, the opportunity for self-fulfillment,” said Yury Pripachkin, Akado Group chairman.

The trend of staying low key is getting more popular among Russia's rich as money matters grip the country. Even Aleksey – who's busy selling luxury cars – believes it's not the right time to show off one’s wealth.

“I actually plan to sell my own Bentley, not because I need money, but because people started looking at me in that car as if I were a public enemy,” Aleksey from Konig Motor said.