No.1 Carlos Slim Helu
Telecom tycoon who pounced on privatization of Mexico’s national telephone company in the 1990s becomes world’s richest person for first time after coming in third place last year. Net worth up $18.5 billion in a year. Recently received regulatory approval to merge his fixed-line assets into American Movil, Latin America’s biggest mobile phone company.
No.2 Bill Gates
Software visionary is now the world’s second-richest man. Net worth still up $13 billion in a year as Microsoft shares rose 50% in 12 months, value of investment vehicle Cascade swelled. More than 60% of fortune held outside Microsoft; investments include Four Seasons hotels, Televisa, Auto Nation. Stepped down from day-to-day duties at Microsoft in 2008 to focus on philanthropy.
No.3 Warren Buffett
$47 billion – Investments, U.S.
America’s favorite investor up $10 billion in past 12 months on surging Berkshire Hathaway shares; says U.S. has survived economic “Pearl Harbor,” but warns recovery will be slow. Shrewdly invested $5 billion in Goldman Sachs and $3 billion in General Electric amid 2008 market collapse. Recently acquired railroad giant Burlington Northern Santa Fe for $26 billion.
No.4 Mukesh Ambani
$29 billion- Petrochemicals, oil and gas. India.
Global ambitions: His Reliance Industries, already India’s most valuable company, recently bid $2 billion for 65% stake in troubled Canadian oil sands outfit Value Creations. Firm’s $14.5 billion offer to buy bankrupt petrochemicals maker LyondellBasell was rejected. Since September company has sold Treasury shares worth $2 billion to be used for acquisitions. Late father, Dhirubhai, founded Reliance and built it into a massive conglomerate.
No.5 Lakshmi Mittal
$28.7 billion – Steel, India.
London’s richest resident oversees Arcelor Mittal, world’s largest steel maker. Net profits fell 75% in 2009. Mittal took 12% pay cut but improved outlook pushed stock up one-third in past year. Looking to expand in his native India; wants to build steel mills in Jharkhad and Orissa but has not received government approval. Earned $1.1 billion for selling his interest in a Kazakh refinery in December
No.6 Lawrence Ellison
$28 billion – Oracle, U.S.
Oracle founder’s fortune continues to soar; shares up 70% in past 12 months. Database giant has bought 57 companies in the past five years. Completed $7.4 billion buyout of Sun Microsystems in January; acquired BEA Systems for $8.5 billion in 2008. Studied physics at U. of Chicago; didn’t graduate. Started Oracle 1977; took public a day before Microsoft in 1986.
No.7 Bernard Arnault
Luxury goods, France.
Bling is back, helping fashion icon grab title of richest European as shares of his luxury goods outfit LVMH–maker of Louis Vuitton, Moet & Chandon–surge 57%. LVMH is developing upscale Shanghai commercial property, L’Avenue Shanghai, with Macau billionaire Stanley Ho.
No.8 Eike Batista
Mining, oil. Brazil.
Vowing to become world’s richest man–and he may be on his way. This year’s biggest gainer added $19.5 billion to his personal balance sheet. Son of Brazil’s revered former mining minister who presided over mining giant Companhia Vale do Rio Doce got his start in gold trading and mining.
No.9 Amancio Ortega
Fashion retail, Spain.
Style maven lords over Inditex; fashion firm, which operates under several brand names including Zara, Massimo Dutti and Stradivarius, has 4,500 stores in 73 countries including new spots in Mexico and Syria. Set up joint venture with Tata Group subsidiary to enter India in 2010. Betting on Florida real estate: bought Coral Gables office tower that is currently home to Bacardi USA.
No.10 Karl Albrecht
Owns discount supermarket giant Aldi Sud, one of Germany’s (and Europe’s) dominant grocers. Has 1,000 stores in U.S. across 29 states. Estimated sales: $37 billion. Plans to open New York City store this year. With younger brother, Theo, transformed mother’s corner grocery store into Aldi after World War II. Brothers split ownership in 1961; Karl took the stores in southern Germany, plus the rights to the brand in the U.K., Australia and the U.S. Theo got northern Germany and the rest of Europe.