Dyson joins ranks of super-rich in a bumper year for billionaires

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The Independent US

James Dyson, the British inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner, joins an expanding list of billionaires compiled by Forbes magazine for 2006, highlighting what has been another bumper year for the world's super rich.

The collective net worth of the 793 billionaires identified this year by the magazine was $2.6 trillion (£1.5trn), half as much again as the entire gross domestic product of the UK, and up a handy $400bn from the combined wealth of just 691 billionaires in 2005.

Britain had 24 entries on the list, the same number as in 2005, while London ranks third among world cities as home to the ultra-wealthy with 23 billionaires, behind only New York with 40 and Moscow with 25.

The list was headed, as it has been for the past 12 years, by Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, worth $50bn, who has widened his lead over his eternal rival, the Omaha-based investor Warren Buffett. Mr Buffett's wealth actually dropped, from $44bn to $42bn. Moving into the top 10 are Bernard Arnault of France at No. 7, Canada's Kenneth Thompson and family at No 9, and Li Ka-shing, from Hong Kong, at No. 10.

Members of this exclusive club hail from 49 countries, but as usual the US dominates, with 371 billionaires - almost half the total. Europe has 196 billionaires, worth a combined $802trn, up $128bn on 2005. Germany has 55, more than any country apart from the US.

Britain's billionaire contingent is a mixture of old and new faces. Apart from Mr Dyson, who slips in at No. 746 with an estimated fortune of exactly $1bn (£576m at present exchange rates), other newcomers are the property investors David and Simon Reuben, with combined wealth of $3.7bn (£2.1bn).

Mr Dyson is tied with J K Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, and Richard Desmond, owner of the Express Group newspapers. Another pair of press barons, the Barclay brothers, feature in 245th place with a net worth of $2.8bn (£1.6bn), the same as Sir Richard Branson.

Once again, the richest Britons were Philip and Cristina Green, owners of the BhS high street chain, with a net worth of $7bn (£4bn), putting them in 74th place overall. They were followed once again by the Duke of Westminster, Gerald Cavendish, whose vast property holdings in central London gave him a net worth of $6.1bn (£3.5bn). David Sainsbury, of the supermarket group, slipped to 486th place, with a fortune of $1.6bn (£921m).

More generally, the list reflects the shifting patterns of the global economy. India, the hot new star of Asian growth, now boasts 23 billionaires with a total worth of $99bn, more than the combined $67bn estimated wealth of their 27 counterparts in Japan.

Russia predictably has also fared well in the 2006 table, thanks to soaring oil and natural gas prices. There are now 33 Russian billionaires, collectively worth $172bn, almost double the total of a year ago.

The richest

1. BILL GATES ($50bn)

The Harvard dropout is moving Microsoft into TV set-top boxes, games and mobile phones.

2. WARREN BUFFETT ($42bn)

The 75-year-old built Berkshire Hathaway to a $133bn company.

3. CARLOS SLIM HELU ($30bn)

The Mexican's empire includes holdings in retail, banking and insurance.

4. INGVAR KAMPRAD ($28bn)

The Swede, 79, now lives in Switzerland, after founding the flat-pack furniture store Ikea.

5. LAKSHMI MITTAL ($23.5bn)

Indian-born Mittal, 54, lives in London, and oversees the world's largest steel company.

6. PAUL ALLEN ($22bn)

Co-founder of Microsoft.

7. BERNARD ARNAULT ($21.5bn)

Luxury-goods king,57, who created and manages LVMH.

8. PRINCE ALWALEED BIN TALAL ALSAUD ($20bn)

Saudi Arabian prince with a $10bn stake in Citigroup.

9. KENNETH THOMSON AND FAMILY ($19.6bn)

Canadian founder of Thomson Corporation; now aged 82.

10. LI KA-SHING ($18.8bn)

Wealthiest man in Hong Kong; chairman of Cheung Kong Holdings; aged 77

Top Britons

1. PHILIP AND CRISTINA GREEN (£4bn)

Monaco-based owners of Arcadia retail group, ranked 74th richest people in the world.

2. GERALD CAVENDISH GROSVENOR (£3.5bn)

Britain's largest landowner with hige LOndon estates, ranked 100th in the world.

3. DAVID AND SIMON REUBEN (£2.1bn)

The property investors, ranked 185 in the world.

4. BERNIE ECCLESTONE (£2bn)

Formula One tycoon, ranked 200 in the world.

5=. DAVID & FREDERICK BARCLAY (£1.6bn)

Newspapers and retailing. Ranked 245 worldwide..

5=. RICHARD BRANSON (£1.6bn)

Virgin tycoon, ranked 245 in the world.

5=. CHARLES CADOGAN AND FAMILY (£1.6bn)

London property investors, ranked 245.

8. BRUNO SCHRÖDER AND FAMILY (£1.4bn)

Director of Schröders Plc, ranked 292 in the world.

9. CLIVE CALDER (£1.3bn)

Music industry mogul, ranked 317 in the world.

10. NADHMI AUCHI (£1.2bn

Iraqi-born, London-based owner of General Mediterranean Holdings, ranked 382.

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