Spain’s Ortega beats Buffett as third-richest man

Patricia Reaney New York

Spain’s Amancio Ortega, the co-founder of the Inditex fashion group, leapt over Warren Buffett and France’s Bernard Arnault to become the world’s third-richest person on Forbes’ 2013 annual ranking of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $57 billion (R516bn).

Tycoons Carlos Slim (right) and Bill Gates pose for a photo in a photo confernece at the Mexico's International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, (known by its Spanish initials as CIMMYT) promoted through their foundations the research and development of agricultural technology to increase farm productivity and reduce hunger in Texcoco, Mexico on Wednesday Feb. 13, 2013. Susana Gonzalez /Bloomberg. Credit: Bloomberg

Mexico’s Carlos Slim, who has taken a hit from the slump in the share price of his America Movil telecoms group since the list was calculated at February 14, remained the richest person with a fortune of $73bn, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates held on to the second spot with a net worth of $67bn.

Ortega’s fortune increased $19.5bn, the biggest gain for any of the billionaires, from the report in 2012. He jumped two places and bumped Buffett, the chairman of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway with a fortune of $53.5bn, out of the top three to the fourth spot for the first time since 2000.

“Warren had a great year, it’s just that Amancio Ortega had a better year,” Forbes magazine editor Randall Lane said of the co-founder of Zara.

Arnault, of the LVMH luxury goods group, dropped to 10th place with $29bn.

Rising stock markets fuelled in part by monetary stimulus by the US Federal Reserve, and robust consumer brands fortified the fortunes of those already on the list and drove many of the 210 new billionaires onto it.

Oracle’s Larry Ellison, with a fortune of $43bn, rounded out the top five in the ranking that included a record 1 426 billionaires, with an average net worth of $3.8bn.

Forbes’ 27th annual ranking is the biggest ever and has the largest jump in the total number of people added in a year.

“It is a very good year to be a billionaire… You have those economic forces… and that is pushing more people over the threshold,” Lane explained.

Brazilian mining, energy and shipping magnate Eike Batista, whose net worth fell to $19.4bn, was the biggest loser on the 2013 list. He dropped from seventh last year to 100.

The total net worth of the world’s billionaires is $5.4 trillion, up from $4.6 trillion in the previous list. The US led the list with 442 billionaires, followed by 386 from the Asia-Pacific region, with 122 in China alone.

Europe was close behind with 366, including 110 in Russia. The Americas, not including the US, had 129 and the Middle East and Africa 103.

“There will be more Asian billionaires than American billionaires… by the middle of this decade,” said Lane. “That is a statement about where global growth is.”

Americans captured five of the top 10 spots including brothers Charles and David Koch, owners of Koch Industries, who tied for sixth place with $34bn each. France’s Liliane Bettencourt, of the L’Oreal cosmetics empire, is the world’s richest woman, coming in ninth with a $30bn fortune.

Li Ka-shing, who controls the Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, is the wealthiest man in Asia with a $31bn fortune, putting him in eighth place.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the founder of financial data firm Bloomberg, a competitor of Thomson Reuters, just missed the top 10, rising to 13th place from 20th with a net worth of $27bn.

Thirty-four more women, including American fashion designer Tory Burch, made the list for a total of 138.

The youngest billionaire was 28-year-old internet entrepreneur Dustin Moskovitz. The former college roommate of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and an early investor in the social networking site came in at number 353 with a net worth of $3.8bn.

Another newcomer was GoPro’s Nicholas Woodman with a fortune of $1.3bn.

The privately owned firm makes wearable cameras. Renzo Rosso of Italian fashion firm Diesel was new to the list with a $3bn net worth.

“It’s a cultural sea change when you can come up with an idea, actualise [it], monetise the idea and become a billionaire by your 40th birthday. That just didn’t happen in the pre-Microsoft era,” Lane said.

US banker and philanthropist David Rockefeller, 97, was the oldest, at 527th with $2.7bn.

Sixty people dropped off the list, including Mark Pincus of gaming company Zynga and Aubrey McClendon, the boss of Chesapeake Energy. – Reuters