Gates is richest for third year

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Bill Gates' software empire has made him the richest person in the world for the third year in a row - and his fortune has doubled, according to Forbes magazine, published in the US yesterday.

Gates' net worth is $36.4bn, the highest ever recorded in Forbes 11th annual tally of the 200 richest billionaires.

The 41-year-old tycoon's fortune is second to that of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of the oil-rich kingdom of Brunei, whose net worth Forbes put at $38bn, but higher than that of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd ($20bn) and the Queen ($16bn with the Royal Collection including the Crown Jewels, $350m without).

Forbes said it excluded royal families and heads of state from its list of the 200 wealthiest because their wealth derives more from political heritage than from economic effort.

Its roster of the super-rich also exluded people who inherited their wealth and did not actively make money or manage it.

Taking second place, with a net worth of $27.6bn were the widow and children of the US Wal-Mart supermarkets founder, Sam Walton, who died in 1992.

Super-investor Warren Buffett, dubbed the "Sage of Omaha." was third, with a net worth of $23.2bn. Hong Kong's Lee Shau Kee, who made his fortune in property, was next, with $14.7bn.