Bill Gates Is the World’s Richest Man Again. Or Is He?
Business + Economy

Bill Gates Is the World’s Richest Man Again. Or Is He?

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Bill Gates is back. The Microsoft founder, who earlier this year said he would step down as the company’s chairman but take a more active role as a technology advisor to new CEO Satya Nadella, has reclaimed the title of richest person in the world, according to Forbes’s annual ranking of billionaires.

Forbes said it found 1,645 billionaires worldwide, and that elite club had an aggregate net worth of $6.4 trillion, up from $5.4 trillion last year. The list includes a record 172 women, including 42 newcomers – both records.

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Gates has now held the top spot in 15 of the last 20 years. His fortune rose by $9 billion to $76 billion, enough to displace 74-year-old Carlos Slim Helu, the Mexican telecom magnate who had topped the Forbes list since 2010. (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was the biggest gainer in dollar terms, as his net worth jumped by $15.2 billion to $28.5 billion, good for No. 21 on the Forbes list.)

Meanwhile, Helu’s fortune shrank by $1 billion, according to the magazine, making him the only person among the world’s 10 richest to lose money in the past year.

Don’t go worrying about poor Carlos Slim, though. As Zachary Goldfarb notes over at Wonkblog, measuring real wealth isn’t just about absolute numbers. Geographic differences matter, too, and Slim still comes out far ahead if you consider that he probably buys most of the goods and services he uses in Mexico, where every dollar goes further than it would in the U.S.

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Measuring the billionaire’s purchasing power that way, based on some quick calculations by inequality researcher Branco Milanović, Gates is actually just the third richest person in the world, behind Slim and Spain’s Amancio Ortega, the 77-year-old former chairman of the Inditex fashion group, best known for its Zara stores. Ortega came in at No. 3 on the Forbes list with a net worth of $64 billion.

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