10. AMANCIO ORTEGA NET WORTH: US$18.3 BILLIONA railway worker’s son, Amanico Ortega started out asa gofer in a shirt store. With then-wife RosaliaMera, also now a billionaire, they started makingdressing gowns and lingerie in their living room. Thatbusiness went on to become one of the world’s mostsuccessful apparel manufacturers, and, today, Inditexhas more than 4,000 stores in 71 countries, with salesof US$12.3 billion.Ortega is chairman of Inditex, and the companyexported its cheap chic Zara stores to four new marketslast year: Ukraine, South Korea, Montenegro andHonduras. The company’s stock went up by one percent in the past 12 months, but its fortune went downbecause of a weak euro.His daughter, Marta, works for Inditex, and recentspeculation suggests she is being groomed toeventually replace her father.
9. THEO ALBRECHT NET WORTH: US$18.8 BILLIONTheo Albrecht runs the discount supermarket group, AldiNord. The firm is holding up amid the economicdownturn, and sales were expected to hit US$31 billion in2008.After World War II, he and older brother Karl transformedtheir mother’s corner grocery into Aldi. The brothers splitownership in 1961, and Karl took the stores in southernGermany, plus the rights to the brand in the U.K., Australiaand the U.S. Theo got the northern Germany stores and therest of Europe. Unable to operate Aldi stores in the U.S.Theo became a recluse after being kidnapped for 17 days in1971, and is said to collect old typewriters and love golf.
8. LAKSHMI MITTAL NET WORTH: US$19.3 BILLIONIndian immigrant, Lakshmi Mittal, heads the world’s largeststeel company, ArcelorMittal, which was formed via hostiletakeover three years ago.Mittal started out in the family steel business in the 1970s,and branched out on his own in 1994, initially buying upsteel mills on the cheap in Eastern Europe. His companybought a 19.9 per cent stake in Australia’s Macarthur Coallast year. He also owns pieces of Mumbai’s IndiabullsGroup, London’s RAB Capital, and owns stake in, and sitson the board of Goldman Sachs.On top of his company stakes, Mittal also holds substantialcash and owns a 12-bedroom mansion in London’s poshKensington neighbourhood.
7. MUKESH AMBANI NET WORTH: US$19.5 BILLIONAmbani oversees Reliance Industries, India’s most valuablecompany by market cap, despite stock falling by 40 per centin the past year.Ambani’s late father, Dhirubhai, founded Reliance and builtit into a massive conglomerate. After he died, Mukesh andhis brother, Anil, ran the family business together for a brieftime. But the siblings feuded over control, and their mothereventually brokered a split of the assets.Ambani and his family have moved into a new 27-storeyhome which he built at a reported cost of US$1 billion. He isan ardent fan of Bollywood films, and hiswife, Nita, oversees a school named after his father.
6. KARL ALBRECHT NET WORTH: US$21.5 BILLIONGermany’s richest person, Karl Albrecht owns discountsupermarket giant Aldi Sud. The retailer is faring well amidthe economic downturn, and analysts expect its 2008 sales tobe up by 9.4 per cent to US$33.7 billion. Sales in the U.S.were up an estimated 20 per cent last year to US$7billion, and the retailer plans to open 75 U.S. stores in2009, including the first in New York City.With younger brother, Theo, the brothers transformed theirmother’s corner grocery store into Aldi after World War II.The brothers split ownership in 1961, and Karl took thestores in southern Germany, plus the rights to the brand inthe U.K., Australia and the U.S, while Theo got northernGermany and the rest of Europe.Karl has retired from daily operations and is fiercely private;little is known about him other than that he apparently raisesorchids and plays golf.
5. INGVAR KAMPRAD & FAMILY NET WORTH: US$22 BILLIONIngvar Kamprad peddled matches, fish, pens, Christmascards and other items by bicycle as a teenager. He startedselling furniture in 1947 and opened his first Ikea store 50years ago; the stores’s name being a combination of initialsof his first and last name, his family farm and the nearestvillage.Although he retired in 1986, Kamprad, the company’s“senior advisor”, still reportedly works tirelessly on hisbrand. The discount furniture retailer now sells 9,500 itemsin 36 countries, and prints catalogues in 27 languages. Ikearevenues were up by seven per cent to US$27.4 billion in the2008 fiscal year. Ellison’s three sons all work at thecompany.But despite his massive fortune, the thrifty entrepreneur flieseconomy class, frequents cheap restaurants and furnishes hishome mostly with Ikea products.
4. LAWRENCE ELLISON NET WORTH: US$22.5 BILLIONDatabase titan, Lawrence Ellison, continues to engulf thecompetition. His company, Oracle, a major enterprisesoftware company, has racked up 49 acquisitions in the pastfour years.Ellison bought BEA Systems for US$8.5 billion lastyear, and is still sitting on US$7 billion in cash. His revenueshave gone up 11 per cent to US$10.9 billion in the sixmonths ended November 30 last year, and his profits are alsoup 11 per cent to US$2.4 billion. However, his stocks havegone down by 25 per cent in the past 12 months.A Chicago native, Ellison studied physics at the Universityof Chicago, but didn’t graduate. He started Oracle in 1977and went public 1986, a day before Microsoft.Ellison owns the 453-foot Rising Sun; a smaller leisure boatthan a superyacht.
3. CARLOS SLIM HELU & FAMILY NET WORTH: US$35 BILLIONThe economic downturn and plunging peso shaved US$25billion from the fortune of Latin America’s richest man; theglobal recession testing his ability to live up to the principleshe sets for his employees: “Maintain austerity in times of fatcows.”Slim Helu’s biggest holding is his US$16 billion stake inAmerica Movil, Latin America’s largest mobile phonecompany with 173 million customers. America Movil andTelmex are reportedly planning to jointly invest US$4 billionto bolster telecom infrastructure in Latin America.Slim Helu is a baseball statistics enthusiast and art collector .
2. WARREN BUFFET NET WORTH: US$37 BILLIONThe son of a Nebraska politician who delivered newspapersas a boy, Buffet filed his first tax return at age 13, claiming aUS$35 deduction for a bicycle. He studied under valueinvesting guru Benjamin Graham at Columbia Universityand took over textile firm Berkshire Hathaway in 1965.Today, Berkshire Hathaway is a conglomerate holdingcompany invested in insurance (Geico, GeneralRe), jewellery (Borsheim’s), utilities (MidAmericanEnergy), and food (Dairy Queen, See’s Candies). It also hasnon-controlling stakes in Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola andWells Fargo.Last year, America’s most beloved investor was the world’srichest man. This year, he has to settle for second place afterlosing US$25 billion in 12 months, with shares of hiscompany Berkshire Hathaway down 45 per cent since lastMarch .
1. WILLIAM GATES III NET WORTH: US$40 BILLIONSoftware visionary and chairman of software giantMicrosoft, Bill Gates regains the title as the world’s richestman, despite losing US$18 billion in the past 12 months.His organisation’s assets were US$30 billion in January, andan annual letter praised endowment manager Michael Larsonfor limiting the company’s losses last year to 20 per cent.While Gates has retired from full-time work withMicrosoft, he still remains Microsoft’s chairman. He sellsshares each quarter and redeploys proceeds via investmentvehicle Cascade, with more than half of the company’sfortune invested outside Microsoft. Microsoft’s stock hasgone down by 45 per cent in past 12 months.A “creative capitalist”, Gates wants companies to matchprofit-making with doing good.