In 2008, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg actually got wealthier, as did George Soros and hedge fund manager John Paulson (the guy who bet against subprime before the melt down). Bloomberg is now the richest man in Big Town — and that's saying something.
Still, for the many staggeringly wealthy financial types tracked by Forbes, 2008 sucked. And that's the case even though finance is one of the top two sources of global wealth, according to the compilers of the Forbes 2009 list of the World's Billionaires just published. (Real estate is the other.) It's no wonder then that financial advisors, brokers and money managers, who service the ultra-wealthy, pay special attention when the list is released each year, Forbes' publicist Elizabeth Wasden told Registered Rep.
Sandy Weill and Hank Greenberg are no longer billionaires, and Warren Buffett has lost a staggering $25 billion from Berkshire Hathaway's stock decline. The personal fortune of Kenneth Griffin contracted by $2 billion. But with $1.5 billion remaining, the Chicago hedge fund manager does qualify as a billionaire — as does, of course, the vastly richer Oracle of Omaha with $37 billion in wealth. On the extreme end, Greenberg, former boss of AIG, watched his wealth almost evaporate from $1.9 billion to less than $100 million.
There is really no surprise in the destruction of wealth across various industries. As the global economy is convulsed by the credit crisis, the stock market rout and collapse of brand name Wall Street houses — and as one economy after another tips into recession — the fortunes of some of the world's wealthiest are suffering. The total number of billionaires on Forbes' 2009 annual roster of worldwide wealth declined by 30 percent, to 793 from 1,125. The last time the list dipped from one year to the next was 2003, and this time the decrease in wealth is massive. The overall net worth of the list is $2.4 trillion, down $2 trillion. The typical billionaire has a fortune of $3 billion. Bill Gates, who lost $18 billion over the past year, is the world's wealthiest person. The Oracle of Omaha is No. 2. Mexico's Carlos Slim Helu and his family are No. 3 with a net worth of $35 billion.