Forbes magazine released its list of the world's billionaires on Wednesday, a collection of 1,153 families and individuals, rife with familiar names like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Carlos Slim Helu, who topped the list with a net worth of $69 billion.
Three Americans made the top 10, while the emergence of the global economy can be found within the diversity of the list. Brazil, Sweden, Mexico, Hong Kong, Germany, Spain and France are all represented at the top. The United States still has the most billionaires, with 425. But Europe and Asia combined top the number, a trend which started three years ago and was last seen regularly in the late 1980s.
But buried under the astronomical dollar figures, names and industries they dominate is a somewhat jarring fact: During a time of global economic duress, there are more billionaires than ever.
The historic tale told by the Forbes billionaires list mirrors that of the broader market. Sectors expand and collapse, money is lost, new fortunes are made, and a some end up in handcuffs.
Forbes began its list of the world's billionaires 25 years ago. The Oct. 5, 1987, list comprised 140 individuals and families, topped by Japanese real estate king Yoshiaka Tsutsumi, with a net worth of $20 billion. Two weeks after the list's publication, the Dow Jones dropped 508 points -- a day which became known as Black Monday.
Tsutsumi remained the world's richest man for five of the next seven years, though the net worth of the world's richest person declined steadily until then-Microsoft Chief Executive Bill Gates took the top spot in 1995 with what now sounds like a paltry $12.9 billion (the same amount would put him at No. 60 on today's recent list).
It began a 12-year reign at the top for Gates, reaching as much as $90 billion in net worth in 1999. His tenure ended briefly in 2008, when the Oracle of Omaha Warren Buffett topped the list with $62 billion (a year, it should be noted, the stock market tanked). Gates was the richest man again in 2009, until Mexican telecom titan Slim began his current three-year streak as the world's richest man.
Here, for you amusement and envy, are the top five richest people according to Forbes.