The Forbes rich list: More billionaires than ever before

And many of them are huge art collectors


New York

The latest Forbes “rich list”, published last month by the US magazine, reveals that the number of global billionaires has grown sharply in the last two years.

Since 2003, the magazine has added 215 new names to its list of people worth over $1 billion, bringing the total number up to 691—the greatest number of billionaires ever recorded by Forbes since they first started ranking the world’s richest in 1987. For the 11th year running, Bill Gates (estimated wealth $46.5 billion) tops the list followed by Warren Buffett (estimated wealth $44 billion) and Lakshmi Mittal (estimated wealth $25 billion), the richest man in the UK.

Many of the world’s biggest art collectors are included on the list, including the French luxury-goods tycoon Bernard Arnault (Forbes ranking: 17, worth $17 billion); ahead of his arch-rival, the owner of Christie’s; François Pinault (Forbes ranking: 76, $5.9 billion). Sotheby’s owner Al Taubman just makes the list at number 620 ($1 billion). The Manhattan hedge fund trader, who recently purchased Damien Hirst’s shark from Charles Saatchi, reportedly for $12 million, Steve Cohen, comes in at 321 ($2 billion), just behind the Las Vegas resort tycoon Steve Wynn (Forbes ranking: 306, $2.1 billion). Other collectors who make the list this year include Si Newhouse ($7 billion), Eli Broad ($6.1 billion), David Geffen ($4.4 billion), Leonard Lauder ($3.2 billion) and his brother Ronald ($2.7 billion), Israel’s Sami Ofer ($3.1 billion), Henry Kravis ($1.5 billion) and, a new entrant, the Islamic art collector David Khalili ($1 billion, see below).

The drop in the dollar is partly responsible for the bumper crop this year, as the figures are calculated in the US currency. A fortune in euros, for example, has gained 20% merely by being translated into dollars, compared with two years ago. Forbes also reports that stronger stock markets and high commodity and property prices have made the rich richer.

Emerging economies are listed separately in the report. Russia has 25 billionaires, more in proportion to gross domestic product than any other major economy, even though Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s net worth fell $12.8 billion this year and his five partners in the troubled oil firm Yukos have dropped off the list entirely. Russian billionaires are notably young, with all 25 aged under 50.

India now has 13 billionaires including the London-based Lakshmi Mittal. The Sunday Times also lists Mr Mittal as the richest person in the UK (£14.8 billion, see below), while Southeast Asia boasts 17 billionaires.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'More billionaires than ever before'