2006 Billionaires

Bill GatesBill Gates returns as the world’s richest person for the 12th year in a row.

Ireland has four people in the list, John Dorrance III (292), Sean Quinn (292), Anthony O’Reilly (562) and Dermot Desmond (746).

Canadian playboy Calvin Ayre went down to Costa Rica a decade ago and began taking illegal bets over the Internet.

Now he’s worth $1 billion. Making a billion just isn’t what it used to be. In its inaugural ranking of the world’s richest people 20 years ago FORBES uncovered some 140 billionaires. Just three years ago they found 476. This year the list is a record 793, up 102 from last year. They’re worth a combined $2.6 trillion, up 18% since last March. Their average net worth: $3.3 billion.

Strong stock markets around the world (the U.S. being the notable exception) contributed to this surge in wealth. India, whose BSE SENSEX market was up 54% in the past 12 months, is home to 10 new billionaires, more than any other country besides the U.S.

Notable newcomers include Tulsi Tanti, a former textile trader whose alternative energy company owns Asia’s largest windfarm; Vijay Mallya, the liquor tycoon behind Kingfisher beer; Kushal Pal Singh, India’s biggest real estate developer; and Anurag Dikshit (pronounced “dix-sit”), another online gaming mogul, who made his fortune when he and two Americans took their PartyGaming poker company public in London last June.

Russia, whose RTS stock exchange was up 108%, benefited from strong gains in commodities prices. The surge swelled the fortunes of its 33 billionaires, including 7 newcomers who join the list. China now has 8 billionaires, four times as many as last year. The U.S. is home to 44 new billionaires and commands nearly half of the fortunes on the roster.

Bill Gates retains his title as the world’s richest person for the twelfth straight year, proving that while it’s getting easier to make a billion, the same can’t be said for making $50 billion.

Twelve people return to the list. Thirty-nine people depart from it. Seven fortunes were broken up among family members, usually siblings, adding 15 individuals to the ranks. Seventy-eight women make the list, 10 more than last year, though only 6 are self-made. Hind Hariri, daughter of slain Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who is eight months younger than Germany’s Prince Albert von Thurn und Taxis, is, at 22, the list’s youngest member.

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