~ A Shorter and Poorer B List

As in B, for Billionaires.

In case you missed it, Forbes recently came out with its annual list of  The World’s Billionaires. And it is a shorter and poorer list. Apparently the “B List” were just as much victims of last year’s financial disaster as the rest of us. And according to Forbes, and they should know, the world’s “B List” are in such dire straights that:

The world has become a wealth wasteland…Today there are 793 people on our list of the World’s Billionaires, a 30% decline from a year ago.

Of the 1,125 billionaires who made last year’s ranking, 373 fell off the list–355 from declining fortunes and 18 who died. There are 38 newcomers, plus three moguls who returned to the list after regaining their 10-figure fortunes. It is the first time since 2003 that the world has had a net loss in the number of billionaires.

Whether they were in stocks, commodities, real estate or technology, it was hard for the world’s “B List” to avoid the carnage. Or the frozen credit markets. Or the weak consumer spending. Or the declining currencies. Or fraud. Or… So how bad is it for the “B List”?

…Their collective net worth is $2.4 trillion, down $2 trillion from a year ago [when it was 4.4 trillion]. Their average net worth fell 23% to $3 billion. The last time the average was that low was in 2003.

Bill Gates lost $18 billion but regained his title as the world’s richest man. Warren Buffett, last year’s No. 1, saw his fortune decline $25 billion as shares of Berkshire Hathaway fell nearly 50% in 12 months, but he still managed to slip just one spot to No. 2.

And apparently there is not a lot of optimism among the B’s. Even Forbes suggest the world’s “B List” is Up in Smoke.

“It’s going to get worse,” says David Geffen, who watched his net worth fall 25% to $4.5 billion as real estate and art prices softened. “I don’t think we’ve hit the bottom. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Dow fell below 6000. Unemployment is now 8.1%, which means it’s really 13.1% after you add 5% for part-time workers and people who are no longer on the employment rolls. I think it will reach 15% or 16% by the end of the year.”

Geffen claims he pulled his investments out of the market in 2006 and has sold off a third of his multibillion-dollar art collection. “It seemed that it was awfully easy to make money,” he says. “There’s something seriously wrong when it isn’t extremely difficult to make a great deal of money. There were billionaires who could not qualify for The Forbes 400. That was one of many warning signs for me to get out.

And with this economy lowering everyone’s standard of living, its not a good time for Recession-hit billionaires selling castle, jets and yachts, according to The Economic Times.

With the global economic downturn making holes in pockets of billionaires, the richie-rich of the world are out to dispose of all their costly belongings, including castles, yachts, private jets and even soccer team

Besides, there are many yachts and seaside villas available in the market as “a number of billionaires, former billionaires and their ex-spouses are now trying to unload some pieces of their billionaire lifestyle”…

However, it has become a “buyer’s market,” making it difficult for these sellers.

The Economic Times also provides another interesting perspective on the world’s “B List” here. It seems India’s billionaires could, if they were so inclined, pay off their countries deficit with a nice nest egg left over for themselves. Unfortunately, we in the US have dug our deficit hole a whole lot deeper. And our billionaires haven’t been able to keep up. Which leaves us with what I call: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good:

Americans have regained their dominance in the worldwide billionaires’ wealth with a lion’s share of 44 per cent.

The Bad:

The cumulative wealth of all the Americans among the 793 billionaires globally stands at about USD 1.05 trillion, which is less than USD 1.3 trillion deficit that US President Barack Obama inherited from the previous regime.

And the Ugly:

The total expenditure proposed by the US federal government last month for fiscal year 2010 stands at about USD three trillion — which is nearly three-times the wealth of American billionaires.

So in 2010 alone, we are going to spend more than half a trillion greater than all the world’s Billionaire’s wealth put together. Which kind of leaves the US without a white knight or even 793 white knights to save us from our doom. (And that’s not even considering the latest Congressional Budget Office projections of nearly a trillion – that’s a T, as in TRILLION – in annual – as in per year – US deficits over the next ten years.)

But no need to panic, yet. All has not been a loss in the world of billionaires. While sadly it is true 373 have fallen off, the world has been blessed with 38 newcomers joining the ranks of the “B List” this year. And NPR’s Morning Edition points to this silver lining in the Economy Shakes Up ‘Forbes’ Billionaires List:

Still, all those empty spots on the list mean more room for the rest of us to move up. … and here’s how they did it.

SECRET #1: Pick your location wisely…

SECRET #2: Make your money in something tangible…

SECRET #3: Don’t go along with the crowd…

SECRET #4: Luck…

SECRET #5: Don’t try to replicate what happened last year. Take advantage of it…

So for those of you that are feeling upwardly mobile these days, you now have the secrets to becoming a Billionaire and I say, go for it! And who knows, someday you may actually become the worlds first trillionaire.

I’ll be rooting for you.

[Cross posted at No Quarter]



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