SPAIN'S Amancio Ortega, the co-founder of the Inditex fashion group, leapt over Warren Buffett and France's Bernard Arnault to become the world's third richest person on Forbes' 2013 annual ranking of billionaires, with an estimated net worth of US$57 billion (RM176.7 billion).
Mexico's Carlos Slim, who has taken a hit from the slump in the share price of his America Movil telecoms group since the list was calculated as of February 14, remained the richest person with a fortune of US$73 billion, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates held on to the No. 2 spot with a net worth of US$67 billion.
Ortega's fortune increased US$19.5 billion, the biggest gain for any of the billionaires, from the report in 2012. He jumped two places and bumped Buffett, chairman and chief executive of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway Inc with a fortune of US$53.5 billion, out of the top three to the No. 4 spot for the first time since 2000.
"Warren had a great year, it's just that Amancio Ortega had a better year," Forbes magazine editor Randall Lane said of the co-founder of Zara. "He has one of the dominant apparel lines in Europe."
Arnault, of the LVMH luxury goods group, dropped to 10th place with US$29 billion.
Rising stock markets fuelled in part by monetary stimulus by the United States Federal Reserve, and robust consumer brands fortified the fortunes of those already on the list and drove many of the 210 new billionaires onto it.
Oracle Corp's Larry Ellison, with a fortune of US$43 billion, rounded out the top five in the ranking that included a record 1,426 billionaires, with an average net worth of US$3.8 billion.
Forbes' 27th annual ranking is the biggest ever and has the largest jump in total number of people added in one year.
"It is a very good year to be a billionaire, and a much easier year to be a billionaire. You have those economic forces and global markets going up and that is pushing more people over the threshold," Lane explained.
Brazilian mining, energy and shipping magnate Eike Batista, whose net worth fell US$19.4 billion, was the biggest loser on the 2013 list. He dropped from No. 7 in 2012 to 100.
The total net worth of the world's billionaires is US$5.4 trillion, according to Forbes, up from US$4.6 trillion in the previous ranking.
The US led the list with 442 billionaires, followed by 386 from Asia and the Pacific region, with 122 in China alone.
Europe was close behind with 366, including 110 in Russia.
The Americas, not including the US, had 129 and the Middle East and Africa 103.
"There will be more Asian billionaires than American billionaires by the end of this decade, actually by the middle of this decade," said Lane. "That is a statement about where global growth is."
Americans captured five of the top 10 spots, including brothers Charles and David Koch, owners of Koch Industries Inc, who tied for sixth place with US$34 billion each.
France's Liliane Bettencourt, of the L'Oreal cosmetics empire, is the world's richest woman, coming in ninth with a US$30 billion fortune.
Li Ka-shing, who controls the Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, is the wealthiest man in Asia with a US$31 billion fortune, putting him in eighth place.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the founder of financial data firm Bloomberg LP, a competitor of Thomson Reuters Corp, just missed the Top 10, rising to 13th place from 20th with a net worth of US$27 billion. Reuters