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A Big Bunch of Billionaires Join 'Forbes' List
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A Big Bunch of Billionaires Join 'Forbes' List

Economy

A Big Bunch of Billionaires Join 'Forbes' List

A Big Bunch of Billionaires Join 'Forbes' List
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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/7793131/7793134" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The billionaires' club is getting bigger. Forbes magazine's annual count of the world's richest people finds 946 with a net worth of $1 billion or more. Software giant Bill Gates still tops the list, but there are almost 200 newcomers as well.

And while more than 40 percent of the world's billionaires still live in the United States, the elite club is getting more international flavor, thanks to booming markets around the world for stock, commodities, and real estate.

Nine out of ten new billionaires in Spain this year owe their fortunes to real estate or the construction business. Luisa Kroll, who edits the Forbes list, says others made money by fueling the world's cars and coffee breaks.

"We had Starbucks founder Howard Shultz make the list for the first time this year," Kroll notes. "We had a Brazilian billionaire whose fortune is from ethanol from the sugar cane plantations down there. We had a Chinese man who made his fortune in dumplings. And he's the official supplier for the Beijing Olympics in 2008."

The fast-growing economies of China and India minted 27 new billionaires this year. While the Forbes list doesn't reflect the recent drop in the Beijing stock market, Kroll says it wouldn't have changed the rankings all that much.

Kroll says China's richest person this year is Yan Cheung, one of only 10 women on the list. She owns a paper and packaging company called Nine Dragons.

"Paper is something that everybody needs," Kroll says. "You really don't think about it. But as trade flows in and out of China, paper is a good industry to be in."

But fortunes — paper and otherwise — come and go, as the Forbes list has shown since it was first published 20 years ago. While most of the rich got richer in the last year, three promoters of Internet gambling fell out of the high-rollers club, thanks to a legal crackdown in the U.S. against online bookmakers.

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