The Forbes list of the world’s richest people is practically a rite of spring around here. Are we home to the richest, second richest or, gasp, third richest person in the world? This year, as billionaires around the world saw their fortunes cut by the global economic downturn, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates lost the least among the top three — $18 billion — and edged back to the top spot on the list with about $40 billion in his money bin. Gates’ friend and partner-in-philanthropy Warren Buffett is No. 2 on the list, with $37 very large. (He had moved to No. 1 in last year’s survey.) Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu, who surpassed Gates as world’s richest in summer 2007 (by a different estimate), is third on the global list with $35 billion. Another software titan, Larry Ellison of Oracle, leaped from 14th in 2008 to 4th, at $22.5 billion.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer saw his fortune decline $4 billion to $11 billion, but he moved up from a three-way tie for 43rd on the 2008 list to a tie with George Soros for 29th place. Microsoft’s other co-founder, Paul Allen, was in 32nd place with $10.5 billion this year,