These Billionaires Actually Got Richer in 2008
As expected, the Forbes Billionaires list got smaller last year. There were only 793 people on the latest list, down from 1,125 last year. The combined wealth dropped by $2 trillion (yes with a ‘T’) and it is at $2 trillion combined.
That is the bad news. The good news? Well, there isn’t any really. Except that a select few of the billionaires actually showed a profit amid the annus horribilis of 2008.
Among the gainers:
* Mayor Mike. Who says government is bad for wealth? Financial-data king and New York City Mayor Michael Blomberg added $4.5 billion to his fortune to rack up a net worth of $16 billion. Forbes doesn’t really give a reason, saying only that it is due to a ‘re-evaulation’ of his company after he bought out Merrill’s stake in news and information provider Bloomberg LP.
* John Paulson. The hedge funder’s Advantage Fund rose 38%, doubling his fortune to $6 billion.
* Jim Simons. The hedge funder’s Medallion Fund surged 80% last year, using ‘complex algorithms,’ giving Mr. Simons a $2.5 billion boost to $8 billion.
* Tadashi Yanai. Japan’s richest guy and his family gained $2.6 billion from their discount clothing business, Fast Retailing.
* George Soros. The king of gloom and doom added $2 billion to his war chest and now has a net worth of $11 billion, largely with bearish bets at his hedge fund.
* John Arnold. The fresh-faced head of Centaurus Energy is said to be up 80% this year, kicking his net up $1.2 billion to $2.7 billion. He now is moving into hard assets like power plants and storage facilities.
So what can the rest of us learn from these winners? Not much, really. It helps to have been a hedge-fund manager and to have accurately predicted the market’s direction. And it helps to be invested in discount retailing both here and abroad. But if there is one certainty in wealth, it is that this year’s successful strategy probably won’t work next year.
-By Robert Frank