The world now plays host to a record 1,426 dollar billionaires, after 210 multimillionaires were propelled into the premier league of extreme wealth in the last 12 months, according to Forbes magazine.
This super-rich set together sit on wealth estimated at $5.4tn, equivalent to more than a third of the annual output of America, the world's largest economy. Last year the billionaires' club held combined wealth of $4.6tn (£2.6bn).
Top of the tree once again is the Mexican telecoms magnate Carlos Slim, with an estimated worth of $73bn, followed by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates, with a fortune of $67bn. The success of the company behind Zara, the world's biggest rag trade operation, saw the Spanish entrepreneur Amancio Ortega climb into third place in the rankings. His fortune is put at $57bn.
Despite Spain being locked in one of Europe's most crippling recessions, with 55% youth unemployment, Ortega was estimated to have seen the biggest rise in his wealth, adding $19.5bn. As a result, he has leapfrogged Warren Buffett, the so-called Sage of Omaha who last month swallowed up the Heinz food empire for $28bn.
Buffett's wealth is put at $55.5bn. It is the first time in 13 years that he has not featured in Forbes's top three.
The world's richest woman is the 90-year-old French cosmetics heiress Liliane Bettencourt, who is the ninth richest person internationally. Her L'Oreal empire is best known for its "Because I'm worth it" television advertising slogan.
America hosts 442 billionaires, according to Forbes, with 366 in Europe, 129 in the Americas and 103 in the Middle East and Africa.
Despite turbulent times for many of the largest economies in the world, 210 new billionaires were minted in the last three months – three times the number of individuals who fell off the list. Among the newcomers, women were well represented, though they still only account for 138 of the world's billionaires, up from 104 last year.
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