World's Rich List Reflects Shifting Global Wealth
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Forbes magazine has released its annual list of the richest people in the world. And for the first time in 15 years, an American does not hold the top spot. Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim beat out Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to top the list. Overall, there are fewer Americans in the top 10. Oracle founder Larry Ellison is the only other billionaire from the States. The rest come from India, Brazil, Spain, France and Germany.
We were interested in the story behind the list. What does it say about the global economy? Who are the most powerful people you've never heard of?
Well, joining us is Luisa Kroll. She's the senior editor of Forbes magazine and she helped compile the list.
Welcome to the program.
Ms. LUISA KROLL (Senior Editor, Forbes Magazine): Thanks, Michele, for having me.
NORRIS: Let's talk about the top 10 first. Tell us more about Carlos Slim.
Ms. KROLL: Carlos Slim is a self-made telecom magnate. Most of his fortune is held in public companies that trade in Mexico. And, you know, many of his companies dominate a lot of Latin America's economy.
NORRIS: And how big is that fortune?
Ms. KROLL: 53.5 billion.
NORRIS: And growing.
Ms. KROLL: And growing, though it always depends on how the stock market is doing.
NORRIS: Aha, of course. Just curious about the reasons behind the drop in the number of Americans in the top 10. Is this caused by the instability in the global economy, or does outsourcing have anything to do with this, that so much manufacturing takes place someplace else?
Ms. KROLL: I actually think that the real story is the fact that everybody else is doing better. You know, the U.S. is up overall. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett both added a lot to their fortunes, so too Larry Ellison, but they just didn't do as well as some of these other economies, like India and China, both of which more than doubled their number of billionaires.
China had 27 new billionaires, and the U.S. only had 16. So I think you see China creating more, and you see these emerging markets presenting their entrepreneurs with opportunities to really grow as their economies are growing.
NORRIS: Is my count correct? Does China have 60 spots on this list?
Ms. KROLL: They have 64 on mainland China, and that's the most anywhere outside of the U.S. If you count Hong Kong's economy as part of that, then they'd have 89 total.
NORRIS: Other trends beyond that top 10 list?
Ms. KROLL: We were talking about some of them. I think that what's really interesting is that you see so many of the countries in Asia outperforming. Asia really led the global economic recovery, and the billionaires tell that story.
There are 104 more Asian billionaires this year. It now has 234, only 14 less than Europe. I also think the Americas, you had Eike Batista, who's a Brazilian oil and mining magnate. He was the year's biggest gainer, up 19.5 billion, and he is in the top 10 for the first time.
NORRIS: To what degree are these billionaires overseas making their money by investing in the U.S.?
Ms. KROLL: For the large part, they're not making their money in the U.S. right now, and they're not making their money from U.S. consumers. There are some exceptions, but really, these people are making their money by catering to their own economies. They're starting to look outside, but right now there's been so much opportunity in some of these markets like China and India, more so than in the U.S.
One of the new billionaires in the U.S. is the guy behind Marvel Comics, Isaac Perlmutter, and he sold his company to Disney, but there weren't that many exciting stories in the U.S. in terms of new entrepreneurs coming into the ranks for the first time.
NORRIS: Still not a lot of women.
Ms. KROLL: Oh, it's terrible. It's really - it's 89 women from the whole list. It's less than 10 percent, but even more telling, I think, is the fact that there are only 14 self-made female billionaires in the entire world, 14 out of 1,011. I call it the one percent club.
Interesting, among those 14, seven of them have made their fortunes on mainland China.
NORRIS: Really? So that's a good place for women to do business, I guess.
Ms. KROLL: Yes, it seems to be.
NORRIS: Luisa Kroll, it's been very good to talk to you. Thanks so much.
Ms. KROLL: Thanks so much for having me, Michele.
NORRIS: Luisa Kroll is a senior editor at Forbes magazine.
(Soundbite of music)
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.