Buffett helps himself to top spot

Warren Buffett might be the world's richest man, but there's no shortage of pretenders to his crown in the UK.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

According to Forbes magazine, the legendary investor’s fortune apparently rose to $62bn last year, thanks to another series of successful bets. It means that the so-called ‘Sage of Ohama’ has overtaken his old chum Bill Gates for the first time in thirteen years to become the world’s richest man. In fact, the Microsoft founder actually slipped to third this year, behind the $60bn pile of Mexican telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim. Perhaps it’s time for a bit of belt-tightening in the Gates household this year.

Other notables on the list include the impossibly youthful Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg, who at 23 becomes the world’s youngest-ever self-made billionaire (not that we’re jealous of course). There’s also South Africa's first black billionaire, Patrice Motsepe, who has around $2.4bn in the bank. JK Rowling and Oprah Winfrey both make the list, although they’re well behind the highest ranked women: L’Oreal boss Liliane Bettencourt, whose $22.9bn pile makes her the 17th richest person on the planet.

One consequence of this explosion of wealth is that everyone thinks they can get rich quick these days. According to research from Orange Business Services, 7m Brits think they’re going to make a million, and two-thirds of them reckon they can do it within ten years. And we’re not talking lottery wins here – they seem to think it will all be their own work. Young people are particularly confident – one in four 16-24 year-olds expect to have seven figures in the bank by their early thirties. And women are even more cocksure – one in three think they’ll be millionaires within five years. Good to see that the spirit of Delboy (‘this time next year, Rodney, we’ll be millionaires!’) is alive and well.

We can’t imagine Buffett is losing much sleep over this potential threat to his crown. But then he probably doesn’t care either way. He’s in the process of giving away his vast fortune to charity – in fact, he’s already pledged more than $30bn to the philanthropic foundation started by Gates and his wife Melinda. So it’s a good job Buffett did come top this year, because he won’t be there for long.

But we were most interested in another aspect of Buffett and Gates’ friendship – the fact that they occasionally play cards online. Now there’s a high-roller game if ever there was one – ‘I see your Coca-Cola, and I raise you Belgium’...

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