Good morning and welcome to our first showing of Spring 2008. In honor of the spring equinox, the NCAA basketball tournament and Purim, let’s fall back to the evening of February 27 at Natural Bridges State Beach. The first five shots were taken from the sand with a little pink thrown into the mix to make this night James blog Worthy. The final shot is a sneak preview of Tuesday night’s spectacular Pacific showing which is for all the people who are tuning into Sunrise Santa Cruz for the first time.
My delivery nurse once told me, rich or poor, it’s nice to have money. So today, we’re going to talk huge money as Forbes Magazine recently released its annual ranking of the world’s billionaires and sadly, I am not on the list. Yes, it was Glenn Close, but in the words of Maxwell Smart, “Missed it by that much, chief.” Strong equity markets combined with rising real estate and commodity prices pushed up fortunes from Madrid to Malibu, from Calcutta to Capitola and Dubai to Davenport. Forbes pinned down a record 946 billionaires. There were 178 newcomers, including 19 Russians, 13 Chinese, 10 Spaniards, as well as first time billionaires from Cyprus, Oman, Romania, Serbia and the Banana Republic. There are 101 Californians, more than any other state including catatonic, confused and my personal favorite, mental.
Ingenuity, not industry, is the common characteristic as these folks made money in everything from media and real estate to coffee, dumplings, ethanol and vanilla brownies. Two-thirds of last year’s billionaires are richer, 2% are shorter, and 4% lost weight. Only 17 % are poorer, including 32 who who fell below the billion-dollar mark. The billionaires combined net worth climbed by $900 billion to $3.5 trillion, which coincidentally is what the war in Iraq is going to cost us, give or take a few Halliburtons.
The average billionaire is 62 years old, two years younger than in 2005. This year’s new billionaires are seven years younger than that. Of list member’s fortunes, 60% made theirs from scratch. Unlike yours truly, who just continues to scratch the eternal itch of life.
Microsoft’s Billy Gates, the world’s richest man for 13 years and his pal Warren “Margaritaville” Buffet, who holds the number two spot despite enormous charitable contributions, are quickly losing ground to Mexico’s super burrito, Carlos Slim Helu. Helu’s net worth is up an astonishing $19 billion this year, the single most one-year gain in a decade and he is now $7 billion shy of Gates and $3 billion less the Buffet. In Europe, Russia’s mostly young, self-made gangsters and tycoons are catching up to Germany’s often-aging heirs and heiresses. Speaking of which, I’ve never been afraid to let my heir down in public. Russia now has 53 billionaires, two shy of Germany’s total. After a 20 year reign, Japan is no longer Asia’s top spot for billionaires: India has 36. Look at that. We’re even outsourcing billionaires.
India’s rich are marching to the top of the rankings with the brothers Mukesh and Anil Ambani, who split their family conglomerate in 2005, joining Lakshmi Mittal, who heads the world’s biggest steel company, Arcelor Mittal, among the world’s 20 wealthiest. India now has three in the upper echelons, second only to the U.S. Growing up, the other thing I knew about India was what I learned from the play, “Oh, Calcutta.” What choreography!
Closer to home, the Bay Area’s biggest billionaire is Oracle Founder Larry Ellison, worth an estimated $25 billion, followed by Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, worth $18.7 and $18.6 billion. The Bay Area is also home to the youngest billionaire on the list, 23-year-old Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who logs in at No. 785 with $1.5 billion. The only Bay Area woman on the billionaires list is outgoing eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who is ranked No. 897 with $1.3 billion. Whitman is one of 99 women on the list, including the richest person in China, 26-year-old Yang Huiyan, who inherited $7.4 billion from her real estate father. That is a lot of egg rolls. The richest woman in the world is France’s Liliane Bettencourt, daughter of the founder of L’Oreal, who ranks 17th with an estimated $22.9 billion. You know, I’ve always had an affinity for the French. Not really, I just had the urge to surrender. You know, with spring in the air.
But even in such a prosperous year, 44 people dropped off the list for various reasons. All the numbers are based on a snapshot of balance sheets taken on February 9, the day Forbes locked in stock prices and exchange rates. But between February 9 and March 2 the world’s stock market bell by 3.7%. Many fortunes suffered severe damages, like the Spaniard Enrique Banuelos, who fortune fell 30% in three days. Big private real estate holders didn’t feel a blip, along with barbers, baseball scouts and personal trainers. The United States remained No. 1 in production of billionaires with 469 of them. I say, God bless America. Land that I love. Stand beside her…All off a sudden it’s a musical. Oklahoma.
That’s it for a Friday. Sunrise Santa Cruz will be taking a week off for a spring fling of meditation, self-examination and NBA introspection but shall return on Monday, March 31. And I guarantee you it will be a spectacular week-you can take that to the fog bank. There were whales, dolphins and enough otters to field a badminton team this morning on West Cliff Drive. Lucky we live Monterey Bay. So enjoy the sky, the college basketball March madness and most importantly, enjoy each day for what it is. Once again, greetings to new readers of this photo blog. I’m glad you’re along for the wild ride. Catch you in ten days. Aloha.