Slim, Buffett, Gates Top Richest List

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The upper echelon of the top 1% was thrust into focus this week when Forbes presented its 2012 list of the world's wealthiest individuals.

This year, the total number of billionaires expanded to 1,226, an all-time high. Despite this growth, however, very little change could be seen at the very top of the list. For a third year, America Movil ( AMX) head Carlos Slim, Microsoft ( MSFT) founder Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.A) chairman Warren Buffett secured the first, second, and third places respectively.

Both Slim and Buffett recorded losses. Slim, who last year boasted a fortune totaling $74 billion has seen his wealth dip to $69 billion, while Buffett clocked in at approximately $44 billion, a decline from last year's $50 billion.

Gates, on the other hand, saw his wealth increase to $61 billion from $56 billion in 2011.
Bill Gates

The fourth and fifth place positions were occupied by Bernard Arnault of LVMH, and Zara's Amancio Ortega. Ortega's inclusion marks the only change from last year's top-five rankings. Spain's richest man managed to surpass both Oracle's ( ORCL) Larry Ellison and ArcelorMittal ( MT) head Lakshmi Mittal.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg dominated discussion last year as he secured a spot just shy of the top-50. This year, with a fortune valued at $17.5 billion, he has managed to break through this barrier and currently sits at spot number 35.

Forty-one-year-old entrepreneur Sara Blakely has become a major focus in this year's list. Thanks to the success of Spanx, she has not only managed to gain a spot on the roster, but also become the youngest self-made woman to join the billionaire's club.

In addition to topping the overall list, the team of Gates and Buffett also locked in the top two spots on Forbes' Billionaire Hall of Fame list. A new addition to the rankings, the Hall of Fame is comprised of 24 billionaires that have managed to secure a spot on the list every year since its introduction in 1987. Other longstanding members include Asia's richest person, Li Ka-shing; L'Oreal's Liliane Bettencourt; and Limited Brands ( LTD) CEO Leslie Wexner.

While exciting for those who have long followed the performance and standings of our world's billionaires, 2012 is also an interesting year for the media firms that are actually responsible for putting the lists together. Forbes, which has long been the authority when it comes to tracking the ultra-wealthy, is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Billionaire issue. A quarter-century is reason to celebrate. However, the euphoria may be subdued. At the start of the week, the public was introduced to what will likely be Forbes' biggest challenge: the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Like the iconic Forbes rankings, Bloomberg has set out to compile a list of the world's wealthiest men and women. However, rather than making the list an annual event, this new service will update its rankings every day, calculating the net-worth of the world's billionaires based on a variety of factors including stock performance and company news.

With the advent of the Internet and social media, consumers have become accustomed to receiving their news in a nearly-instantaneous manner. It remains to be seen if the public will fully embrace this new dynamic ranking system. However, given our shifting media consumption habits, I would say its prospects are strong.

Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.

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At the time of publication, Dion Money Management did not own any of the equities mentioned.

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