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The Top 10 Richest Billionaires in the World

The 10 Richest Billionaires in the World, and Where They Got Their Money

The recession has taken its toll even on the wealthy. Recently, the World Wealth Report found that 2009 was ushered in with fewer billionaires than previously. However, there are still plenty of billionaires in the world. Indeed, even though people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett lost billions due to the stock market crash that followed the financial crisis, they are still ultra-high net worth individuals. Forbes offers a list of the 10 richest people in the world — and how they got their money:

1. Bill Gates

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Even after losing $18 billion, Bill Gates still has a net worth of $40 billion. As you might know, Bill Gates is a self-made billionaire, earning his money as an entrepreneur. Gates was one of the early disk operating system pioneers and started a software company with some of his peers. The company became Microsoft. One of the main breaks for Gates was an agreement with IBM for an operating system for $50,000. Since he did not transfer the copyright to IBM, he was able to continue making money of the MS-DOS system as other hardware vendors cloned the system. Gates has been accused of unsavory business practices in the past, and was recently involved in anti-trust proceedings in the European Union, but there is no denying the success of Microsoft. Gates now devotes a great deal of money and time to his philanthropic efforts, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

2. Warren Buffett

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One of the most famous investors in the world is Warren Buffett. After losing $25 billion, his net worth now is right around $37 billion. Most of his fortune is self-made, coming as an outgrowth of a textile firm, Berkshire Hathaway. His father was a politician in Omaha, and Buffett delivered newspapers for his first job. (He also took a $35 tax deduction for his bicycle at age 13.) When Buffett bought Berkshire, he spent some years transitioning it to a holding company. Then he began using it to buy other businesses. Buffett is known for his business sense and investing savvy, and his obsession with checking into companies for their sound fundamentals before making a buying decision. Berkshire owns stakes in Geico, Dairy Queen, See’s Candy, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo and other well-known companies.

3. Carlos Slim Helú

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Along with his family, Carlos Slim Helú is the wealthiest man in Latin America. He has $35 billion, even after losing $25 billion. Slim is also a self-made billionaire. He has an interesting history. Even though he lives in Mexico City, he is the son of an immigrant from Lebanon (his father’s original surname was Salim). He studied engineering, and made his money in the telecom industry. He was the leader in a group of investors that bought two telephone companies from the Mexican government in 1990. His diverse holdings include real estate, technology, oil, gas and even a stake in The New York Times Company. He even loaned the company money earlier this year. Slim’s wealth is worth about the same as 2% of the economic output of the entire country of Mexico.

4. Lawrence Ellison

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The man that started software giant Oracle is worth $22.5 billion. Even though he was born in the Bronx, Ellison was adopted and raised by his mother’s aunt and uncle in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood. Ellison’s adopted father lost his small real estate fortune during the Great Depression. Like Bill Gates, Ellison is a college dropout. He made his money in software design. His database project for the CIA, as part of Ampex Corporation, was called Oracle. He founded his company using only $2,000 of his own, and grew it into one of the industry leaders. However, there have been several tugs of war. But Oracle’s focus on database and server technology has allowed to remain in relatively good shape.

5. Ingvar Kamprad

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Most people probably haven’t heard of Swedish entrepreneur Ingvar Kamprad (net worth, $22 billion). But they have probably heard of the brand he is associated with: Ikea. Kamprad is the child of Swedish farmers. One of his first jobs was selling cards, matches, pens and fish from a bicycle. He learned early that he could buy in bulk for cheap, and then mark up prices so that he made a good profit — even while offering good prices to customers. Eventually, he began selling furniture. After learning a bit about it, he opened his own furniture store. He got the name Ikea from his first and last name, the name of the family farm, and the nearest village. His furniture brand is known for its affordability and modern style. Instead of living too lavishly, Kamprad takes economy class when he flies, eats at inexpensive restaurants and furnishes his home mainly with what Ikea has to offer.

6. Karl Albrecht

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This billionaire is extremely private. He is the wealthiest person in Germany. His net worth is $21.5 billion. There is not a great deal known about Albrecht, but it is known that he is another self-made billionaire. His mother owned a small grocery store in Germany. However, after World War II, Albrect, along with his brother Theo transformed the shop into Aldi. Now, Aldi is known for its discount prices on groceries. Albrecht and his brother divided up ownership of the stores. Albrecht took the rights to the brand for the U.S., U.K. and Australia, as well as the south part of Germany. Aldi is actually doing reasonably well as people turn to inexpensive foods during the recession.

7. Mukesh Ambani

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It is telling that we have made it to #7 on the wealthiest billionaires list before getting to someone who inherited a fortune. Mukesh Ambani, along with his brother, inherited the conglomerate Reliance, one of the most valuable companies in India, upon the death of their father. Control issues forced Ambani’s mother to broker a deal between them, and split some of the assets. Ambani has been working to grow his fortune, however. He merged Reliance Petroleum with Reliance Industries, and has an agreement to buy Chevron’s stake in Reliance at $1.20 per share — which is less than it is trading for right now. Ambani is worth right around $19.5 billion, and is the wealthiest person in the country of India.

8. Lakshmi Mittal

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An Indian immigrant to the U.K., Mittal is the wealthiest person living in Great Britain. Mittal inherited a great deal of his fortune, working in his family’s steelmaking business. He founded his own company, Mittal Steel, and has been aggressive in developing his business prospects. With a hostile takeover, the company became ArcelorMittal, and is the largest steel company in the world. Mittal is worth $19.3 billion, having lost some of his money as steel price have fallen in the last year. While Mittal’s fortune is heavily reliant on stocks in his company, he still has substantial cash holdings. He has also diversified into other holdings, such as Macarthur Coal. He sits on the board of Goldman Sachs.

9. Theo Albrecht

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Like his older brother, Karl, Theo Albrecht is an intensely private person. (The fact that he was kidnapped in 1971 probably contributes to this fact.) He is worth $18.8 billion, and is three places below his brother on the list of world’s wealthiest billionaires. However, his fortune is nothing to sneeze at. Albrecht has the brand rights to the discount grocer Aldi in the north part of Germany and in all of Europe except Great Britain. Part of the reason his brother, who helped develop the Aldi brand out of their mother’s corner grocery store, is richer is doubtless due to the fact that Karl has the rights to the Aldi brand in the U.S. However, Albrecht has been able to start his own brand, Trader Joe’s, which is gaining some inroads in the U.S. His stake in Supervalu is also probably helping.

10. Amancio Ortega

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With a net worth of $18.3 billion, Amancio Ortega rounds out the top ten wealthiest people in the world. Like most of the people on this list, his fortune is self-made. His father was a railway worker, and Ortega worked in a shirt store in Spain. He and his wife at the time began making their own lingerie and dressing gowns. They did this in their living room, creating chic designs. They formed a company called Inditex, and grew the brand so that there are more than 4,000 stores around the world. Ortega also has a brand of inexpensive fashions, Zara. The euro’s weakness has sapped some of Ortega’s fortune, so his wealth is down even as stock in his company is up. Ortega grows his fortune with investments in real estate, tourism, gas and banks.