#1. Carlos Slim Helu
Carlos Slim Helu retains the title of world’s richest man for the third year in a row despite a fortune that’s $5 billion smaller than a year ago-primarily because of a lower share price for telecom giant America Movil, which accounts for more than half his net worth. In April the company was fined $1 billion by Mexican regulators for monopolistic practices, but is appealing the decision. Slim is spending more time working with his Carlos Slim Foundation and the Telmex Foundation than he has in the past.
#2. William Gates III
First part of mission accomplished: Bill Gates, the most generous person on the planet (he’s given away $28 billion already), has helped eradicate polio in India. In January the country announced its first polio-free year. Gates will continue to chip in $200 million a year to rid the world of a disease that is still endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. His Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is also spearheading a malaria vaccine that is showing promise in clinical trials. Meanwhile the vaccine-spreading organization he founded, called GAVI, raised $4.3 billion in pledges aimed at distributing drugs to thwart the deadly infections that cause meningitis, pneumonia, and diarrhea in developing countries. He also has a new endeavor in the works: fixing agriculture. His foundation has committed more than $2 billion to small farmers. Less than one-fourth of his net worth is still held in Microsoft, whose shares are trading higher than they have been in 10 years; the rest is in private equity, bonds and stocks such as Ecolab and Mexican broadcaster Televisa.
#3. Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett announced in February he’d finally made the decision about who will replace him, but he wouldn’t give a name. In December, he chose his farmer son, Howard, as the future non-executive chairman and “guardian of the firm’s values.” New Senate legislation requiring the rich to pay at least a 30% tax rate has been dubbed the “Buffett Rule” in homage to the billionaire’s frequent public statements that the wealthiest should pay more than the average Joe. His net worth is down $6 billion year on year because of a 7% slump in Berkshire’s stock. In his latest annual letter he confessed to some mistakes, including being “dead wrong” about a housing comeback.
#4. Bernard Arnault
Bernard Arnault orchestrated another stellar year for his luxury-goods empire, LVMH. Profits jumped 22%, thanks to record sales at Louis Vuitton and the successful integration of Bulgari. The group formed a joint venture with one of the world’s leading tanneries of crocodile leather, Heng Long. Arnault hasn’t done as well with his more pedestrian investment in supermarket chain Carrefour, which is worth $1 billion less than it was a year ago. Among his personal high-end collection: He owns Indigo Island in the Bahamas (rent: $300,000 a week) and ski chalet Cheval Blanc in Courchevel.
#5. Amancio Ortega
Ortega stepped down as chairman of his global fashion firm, Inditex, in July 2011. The company hasn’t missed a beat. Shares are up one-fourth in the past year, helping boost his fortune by $6.5 billion and pushing him into the global top 5 ranks for the first time. Ortega paid $536 million to billionaire Esther Koplowitz in December for Torre Picasso, a 43-story skyscraper in Madrid. He also owns Epic Residences & Hotel, a luxury 54-story waterfront condo and hotel development in Miami. Other personal holdings include a stake in a soccer league and a horse-jumping circuit. A railway worker’s son, he started as a gofer in a shirt store.
#6. Larry Ellison
Oracle’s stock has been oscillating for months. It’s rebounded since its August low but is still off 15% year on year due to a slowdown in the software and hardware giant’s sales, enough to knock $3.5 billion off Ellison’s fortune. Seeking to profit from cloud computing, Oracle acquired Taleo in February for $1.9 billion and RightNow in October for $1.5 billion. Ellison has been tagged as one of the clutch of billionaires interested in buying the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. His big sport is yachting: he won the America’s Cup in 2010 and is bringing the 34th edition of the America’s Cup Finals to the San Francisco Bay in 2013.
#7. Eike Batista
Eike Batista, Brazil’s richest man, is riding high on oil fever. His oil and gas driller, OGX Petroleo e Gas, produced its first oil in a test well offshore in late January; his 61% stake in the company is worth $19.8 billion, two-thirds of his net worth. The bombastic entrepreneur is also betting on his former passion, gold: In February 2011 he spent $1.5 billion to take private Canadian-listed Ventana Gold, which owns what he says is an incredibly promising mine in Colombia.
#8. Stefan Persson
Stefan Persson’s cheap-chic apparel chain H&M added Versace and Marni to its stable of designers last year and opened its first stores in Croatia, Singapore and Romania. It now has 2,500 shops in 43 countries. Persson, who is chairman, bought 5 million additional shares of the company and then gifted 4 million, worth $150 million, to a new employee incentive program. Persson’s father, Erling, founded H&M in 1947; Stefan took over in 1982, he gave up the chief executive position in 1998; promoted son, Karl-Johan, 35, to chief executive in July 2009. Persson acquired the 21-cottage village of Linkenholt in Hampshire, England in 2009.
#9. Li Ka-shing
Li Ka-shing moves back into the top 10 for the first time since 2007. He is Asia’s richest person for the first time since 2004, despite a $500 million drop in net worth. One of the great empire builders, Li’s businesses employ 270,000 people around the world in 53 countries; he built one out of every 7 residences in Hong Kong, his Hutchison Port Holdings handles about 13% of the world’s container traffic, and his recently acquired Northumbrian Water supplies clean drinking water to 4.5 million people in England and sewerage services to another 2.7 million. Li also has personal investments in tech startups like Facebook and Spotify.
#10. Karl Albrecht
Karl Albrecht’s $39 billion (estimated sales) discount supermarket giant, Aldi Sud, has some 4,500 stores, including 1,200 across 32 U.S. states. It opened its first New York City locations in 2011, one in Queens and another in the Bronx. To keep costs low, Aldi stores do not accept credit cards. He and his late brother Theo got their start at their mother’s corner grocery store after World War II and turned it into a large retail chain based on low prices in a no-frills setting. They split ownership in 1961; Karl took the more profitable stores in southern Germany, plus the rights to the brand in the U.K., Australia and the U.S.