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Bill Gates numbers amongst the world's ‘wealthies indviduals He is trustee of one of the largest charitable foundations in the ‘world, but his personal wealth still means he rsnicher than about two-thds of countnes. lhe past 30 years have seen the creation of more billionaires than ever ae in history (a billionaire is defined as someone with wealth of at least a thousand million US§). At the start of the twenty-first century there were some 573 billionaires worldwide - 308 in the United States, 114 in Europe, 88 in Asia, 32 in Latin America, 15 in Canada, 13 in the Middle East, and 3 in Australia (Forbes 2000). Their combined assets in mid-2000 were esti- mated at US$1.1 trillion — greater than the total gross national products of 87 countries representing more than a third of the global world population (calculated from World Bank 2000-1). In May 2008, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corporation, was finally displaced as the world’s wealthi individual after holding that status for ‘ _ 523 GLOBAL INEQUALITY 13 consecutive years. Warren Buffett, an ‘American investor and businessman, was heralded as the world’s richest person, with @ net personal worth of US$62 billion, primarily based on his stock holding in Berkshire Hathaway, a US-based insurance conglomerate (see table 13,1). Gates’s fortune, some US$58billion is based largely on ownership of Microsofts stock and he seems to personify the entrepreneurial spirit: a computer nerd tumed capitalist, whose software provides the operating system for the vast majority of personal computers worldwide. During the late 1990s, Gates had a net worth of around 'US$100 billion; but after reaching this peak, the value of Microsoft's stock began 0 decline, leaving his personal fortune greatly ——— SRT Table 13:1] Twenty richest individuals and int eae ee Rank, Name Be Cuentes SSAge Nel : ha Beetles 77 eran E2555 Carlos Sin Hela @ fami reduced. Nevertheless, he remains one of the wealthiest individuals in the world and his persona! fortune dwarfs that of other well-known entrepreneurs like Richard Branson (Virgin Group) and Roman Abramovich Russian oil industry). Among the world’s top forty richest indi- viduals and families in 2007 were 16 from North America, 1 from Europe, § from the Middle East, 3 from Hong Kong, 2 from India and 1 from Mexico (Sunday Times 2007). If Bill Gates typifies the Western, high-tech entrepreneur, then Hong Kong’ Li Ka-shing- number 11 on the 2008 list~is the hero in a rags-o-riches story that char- acterizes the success of many Asian busi- nessmen. Li began his career by making plastic flowers, but by 2007 his USS265 fe world 2008 © Usted Sites” | United King