Bill Gates tops Forbes rich list, Michael Jordan joins it

US billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates is pictured at an interview in Berlin on January 27. -- PHOTO: AFP
US billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates is pictured at an interview in Berlin on January 27. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Bill Gates stands atop Forbes magazine's annual list of the world's richest people, as Facebook Inc's Mark Zuckerberg joined the top 20 and basketball star Michael Jordan plowed new air by making the list for the first time.

Gates' net worth rose to US$79.2 billion (S$108.13 billion) from US$76 billion a year earlier, putting the Microsoft Corp co-founder at the top for the 16th year in the last 21, Forbes said on Monday.

Mexico telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim Helu ranked second, worth US$77.1 billion, while Berkshire Hathaway Inc chief Warren Buffett was third, at US$72.7 billion.

Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of Inditex SA, which includes clothing retailer Zara, was fourth at US$64.5 billion, while Oracle Corp Chairman Larry Ellison was fifth at US$54.3 billion.

Buffett's fortune grew US$14.5 billion from a year earlier, more than anyone's else, despite his having donated US$2.8 billion to several charities last July.

Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian who became Africa's richest man through cement manufacturing and commodities such as flour and sugar, was the biggest loser, falling US$10.3 billion to US$14.7 billion.

Forbes identified a record 1,826 billionaires, up from 1,645 last year, worth a combined US$7.05 trillion.

Of the record 197 women, the highest-ranked was Wal-Mart Stores Inc heiress Christy Walton, who was eighth at US$41.7 billion.

France's Liliane Bettencourt, who got much of her wealth from cosmetics company L'Oreal SA, was 10th at US$40.1 billion.

Zuckerberg, 30, rose to 16th place from 21st last year, as his net worth grew to US$34.8 billion.

The youngest billionaires were Evan Spiegel, 24, and Bobby Murphy, 25, who co-founded mobile messaging app Snapchat, and are each worth US$1.5 billion.

Meanwhile, Jordan ranked 1,741st with a US$1 billion net worth. The 52-year-old is majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets basketball team, but is better known for his Hall of Fame playing days with the Chicago Bulls and endorsement contract with Nike Inc, which makes Air Jordan shoes.

Jordan's business manager did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The United States had the most billionaires, with 536, followed by China at 213, Germany at 103 and India at 90.

Russia, which has struggled with currency and oil market turmoil, saw its collection of billionaires fall to 88 from 111, Forbes said.