Potter's creator joins cast of dollar billionaires

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The Independent Online

The magical success of the world's most famous boy wizard has boosted the wealth of his creator to the billion-dollar mark.

J K Rowling, the author of five Harry Potter novels, has clinched a place in the annual Forbes listing of the planet's richest people with an estimated fortune of $1bn (£540,000).

Rowling, 38, was ranked the 552nd richest person in the world by the American magazine after a year in which global sales of her five books reached 250 million.

Translated into 60 languages ranging from Gujarati to Greek, the novels have been a platform for the launch of two films and myriad merchandising projects which further boost Rowling's income.

Richard Heller, contributing editor of Forbes' international edition, said: "Her kind of financial strength is that she has oil in the ground. The sort of copyright deals she has produce dandy rewards. From all the reports she also seems to be sensible with money and not a big spender."

The sensational rise of Rowling's bank balance has become a tale of fantasy in its own right. Before her first book was published in 1997 she lived as a single mother in a two-bedroom flat in Edinburgh, writing most of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in a café while her daughter Jessica slept.

Apart from her appeal to readers, Rowling has become the darling of the number-crunching compilers of a growing number of "rich lists". Last summer The Sunday Times said she had overtaken the Queen with a fortune of £280m but Forbes - which claims greater experience and therefore accuracy - reckons she is worth more than double that. Researchers at Forbes predict that, with two further books in the pipeline and the inevitable spin-offs, her wealth could eventually reach $10bn.

The other new British dollar billionaires are the Barclay brothers and the mobile phone tycoon John Caudwell.

The Barclays, the potential buyers of The Daily Telegraph, are placed 159th with an estimated fortune of $3bn from property, retail and media interests. Forbes admitted that their inclusion on the list was not because they had gained sudden wealth but because as residents of the Channel Islands they had been overlooked in previous research.

Mr Caudwell, who famously banned staff from sending e-mails at work recently, was ranked 406th with estimated wealth of $1.4bn. Mr Caudwell, a 51-year-old former car salesman, built his immense fortune in only 20 years. He now owns Europe's largest mobile phone distributor with sales of about £2bn a year.

Britain's richest person, according to Forbes, is the Duke of Westminster, who is worth $8.7bn thanks to his property portfolio of 300 "golden acres" in Belgravia and Mayfair. Rising stocks, a strong euro and stable oil prices have meant big gains for Europe's 164 billionaires, including 20 newcomers.

Britain's Rich List

Duke of Westminster: $8.7bn, property

Philip Green: $5bn, retail

David Sainsbury & family: $4bn, supermarkets

Bernie Ecclestone: $3.5bn, F1

David & Frederick Barclay: $3bn, property and retail

Charles Cadogan: $2.4bn, property

Clive Calder: $2.3bn, record label

Richard Branson: $2.2bn, Virgin

Bruno Schroder: $1.9bn, banking

Kenneth Morrison: $1.8bn, supermarkets

Joseph Lewis: $1.6bn, finance

Adrian Swire & family: $1.5bn, diversified

John Caudwell: $1.4bn, phones

Terry Matthews: $1.2bn, IT

Jonathan Harmsworth: $1.2bn, publishing

John Hargreaves & family: $1bn, retail

J K Rowling: $1bn, Harry Potter