NEW YORK (Reuters) - The world’s richest are getting younger and richer with more Russians and Indians cropping up among the 946 people on Forbes magazine’s 2007 billionaires list unveiled on Thursday.
The number of billionaires is 19 percent higher than last year when there were 793, and their total net worth grew 35 percent to $3.5 trillion, the magazine said.
The average billionaire’s age fell by two years to 62, and 60 percent started with very little. Two-thirds of those on the list were richer, with net worth up for nearly everyone in the top 50.
“This is the richest year ever in human history,” said Forbes Chief Executive Steve Forbes. “Never in history has there been such a notable advance.”
Among those joining the list are Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, which pioneered the $3 cup of coffee, and former Walt Disney boss Michael Eisner.
Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates was the richest man for the 13th straight year, with $56 billion, followed by Warren Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., with $52 billion. Mexican telecoms tycoon Carlos Slim remained No. 3, with $49 billion.
Schultz is 840th on the list and worth $1.1 billion. Eisner is 891st and worth $1 billion.
In China, Yan Cheung, chairwoman of Nine Dragons Paper, made history as China’s richest person and was one of three self-made women born in the communist country to debut this year. She is worth $2.4 billion and is 390th on the list.
Russia climbed to No. 3 in country rankings with 53 billionaires, two less than Germany, which has long held the runner-up spot in the billionaire stakes behind the United States.
But the total worth of the Russians surpassed the Germans, at $282 billion versus $245 billion, Forbes said. The average age of Russia’s billionaires was 46.
In Asia, India had the highest number of billionaires, overtaking Japan, which for two decades had held the region’s top spot.
India had 36 billionaires worth a total $191 billion while Japan’s 24 billionaires were worth $64 billion, the magazine said.
The wealth of Mexico’s Slim increased by $19 billion, the biggest one-year advance in a decade. His wealth is equal to 6.3 percent of Mexican annual economic output, a comparison that would make Gates worth $784 billion, the magazine said.
Two newcomers climbed into the top 10. Spaniard Amancio Ortega of retailer Zara rose to No. 8 with $24 billion, and Canadian David Thomson and his family were at No. 10, replacing his father, the late media baron Kenneth Thomson.
There were 178 new billionaires and 53 nations were represented on the list. Of the 83 billionaire women, 10 were self-made, it said.
Spain added 10 new billionaires, nine of whom made fortunes in the country’s booming real estate and construction business. Americans made up 44 percent of the world’s billionaires, with 415, 55 of whom were new to the list.
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are now worth $16.6 billion each, and the speed at which they amassed their fortune far is exceeding the pace of Gates, the magazine said. They both were ranked No. 26 on the list.
Back on the list were BET television network founder Robert Johnson and AOL’s Stephen Case, in 840th place with $1.1 billion and 891st with $1 billion, respectively.
Japan’s Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, the world’s richest man in 1987, is no longer a billionaire, the magazine said.
Tsutsumi, the former chairman of Kokudo Corp., the core firm of regional railway operator Seibu Railway group, received a suspended prison sentence in October 2005 for falsifying financial statements and insider trading.
Computer maker Michael Dell and the heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton fell from the top 20. Dell was No. 30, worth $15.8 billion, and four Waltons were worth from $16.4 billion to $16.8 billion, ranking 23rd to 29th.