- The Washington Times - Friday, March 1, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) Even the world's richest people feel the sting of a depressed economy and shrinking stock portfolios.
The distinct club of international billionaires dropped 83 members this year to 497 as recession and fallout from the terrorist attacks reduced its wealth. The group's combined worth fell to $1.54 trillion from $1.73 trillion last year, according to Forbes magazine's 16th annual ranking of billionaires released yesterday.
Among the missing: AOL Time Warner Chairman Steve Case, whose company stock has declined by about half since last year, and Gary Winnick, chairman of Global Crossing, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January.
They led a second year of decline in the number of billionaires since the technology downturn began pressuring the world economy in 2000. The largest drop 91 members came last year.
"Talk about churn, creation and destruction at work," said Louisa Kroll, who edited Forbes' March billionaires issue, which arrived on the newsstands yesterday. "For two years in a row, it's been falling fortunes."
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates lost $6 billion last year, but that didn't stop him from being the richest man in the world for the eighth year in a row. With a net worth of $52.8 billion, he remained comfortably ahead of Warren Buffet, who held the No. 2 spot with $35 billion.
German retailers Theo and Karl Albrecht climbed two notches to No. 3, with a net value of $26.8 billion. They pushed Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, ranked third last year with a value of $30.4 billion, to No. 4 after he lost $5.2 billion, partly in the stock market bust.
Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison held the fifth spot, while five heirs of the Wal-Mart fortune created by founder Sam Walton rounded out the top 10.
Only 25 on the list are under 40, led by 37-year-old computer founder Michael Dell at No. 18. The highest-ranking woman was No. 8, Alice Walton, with assets of $20.5 billion.
The list was compiled using stock prices and exchange rates as of Feb. 4.
Among the countries, the United States led the list with 243 billionaires, down from 272 last year, with a combined net worth of $111 billion. One of the bigger losers was CNN founder Ted Turner, now a vice chairman at AOL Time Warner, who lost 50 percent of his net worth to $3.8 billion. He dropped 62 places on the list to No. 97.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of the financial information company Bloomberg, spent $70 million of his own money to win his first political campaign last fall. Still, he saw his ranking move up 10 places to No. 72, despite losing $100 million to arrive at assets of $4.4 billion.
Europe had 121 billionaires, headed by the Albrechts and Germany's Johanna Quandt and family, whose 46 percent ownership of automaker BMW helped put them at No. 12.
Asia, led by Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud at No. 11, boasted 70 billionaires.
A loser was Japan's Yasuo Takei and family, whose $3.1 billion in losses dropped him 14 places to No. 51 as the country battles deflation and a decade-long economic slowdown.
Of the 497 total billionaires from 43 countries, 260 inherited some or all of their wealth, and the rest made their money themselves. Twenty-seven are college dropouts.

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