Fortune favours royalty on billion-dollar question

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The Independent Online
WHAT'S a billion, here or there? Try asking the publishers of Fortune and Forbes, two US business magazines that have come out with competing, and very different, lists of the world's wealthiest individuals.

Though published only 10 days apart, their lists of the top 100 billionaires barely correspond. A third of those on Fortune's list do not make the Forbes dollars 2.1bn (pounds 1.36bn) cut-off, while established American dynasties such as the Du Ponts, the Rockefellers, the Hearsts, the Mellons and the Fords (families worth a total of more than dollars 25bn (pounds 16.2bn) according to Forbes) do not appear in Fortune's ranking.

On the other hand, the Forbes top 100 does not include Walter Annenberg, the US publishing billionaire who on Sunday made what is believed to be the largest charitable donation to education - dollars 365m to four American schools.

Forbes is also meaner than Fortune when it comes to rating Britain's wealthiest, acknowledging only the Sainsbury family and ignoring Garfield Weston (dollars 3.9bn in Fortune), the Swires (dollars 3.2bn) and Sir John Moores (dollars 2.7bn) who made money in, respectively, baking, trading and football pools.

Rival estimates of individual wealth typically vary by dollars 3bn or more. The media baron John Kluge, richest commoner of Fortune's list with dollars 8.8bn, trundles in at 15th on Forbes with a mere dollars 5.5bn, ranking behind Microsoft's Bill Gates (dollars 7.4bn).

The Forbes list is also decidedly more democratic, excluding royalty and others whose 'wealth derives more from political heritage than from economic effort', thus omitting the world's richest man, the Sultan of Brunei (37 Fortune billions), King Fahd of Saudi Arabia (dollars 10bn), Sheiks al-Saba of Kuwait (dollars 7bn), al-Maktoum and al-Nayahan of the Emirates (dollars 5bn each), as well as the Queen (dollars 7.8bn) and the Duke of Westminster (dollars 2.3bn). Forbes' top dog is store king Sam Walton with dollars 25.3bn.

On the other hand, Forbes' complete list of all the world's 311 billionaires includes Colombia's fugitive cocaine kingpin, Pablo Escobar, and Japan's biggest tax embezzler, Hirotomo Takei.