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The latest news on Billionaires from Business Insider

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    cargill

    Cargill is the largest privately held company in the US

    The Minnesota-based agriculture giant has 75 businesses employing 143,000 people in 67 countries. In 2013, yearly revenue topped $134 billion

    That money has made the Cargill clan very, very rich.

    As Forbes reports in their annual billionaire list, the Cargill family now has 14 billionaires, more than any other family in the world. 

    To put this in perspective, if the Cargills were a country, they'd have as many billionaires as Sweden or Israel. That's enough to make them the 31st-most billionaire-filled nation around.

    It all started back in 1865.

    "W.W. Cargill founded the business on the Iowa frontier at the end of the Civil War, and his descendants still own 88% of the agricultural conglomerate 150 years later,"Forbes reports. 

    Heirs to the family fortune include James Cargill IIAusten Cargill II, and Marianne Liebmann

    While huge, Cargill is famously quiet as a company and a family.

    "The Cargills live extremely private lives, many of them on ranches and farms in Montana," Forbes reports.

    A 2011 Fortune profile helped to put the reach of the company in perspective:

    You don't have to love Egg McMuffins (McDonald's buys many of its eggs in liquid form from Cargill) or hamburgers (Cargill's facilities can slaughter more cattle than anyone else's in the U.S.) or sub sandwiches (No. 8 in pork, No. 3 in turkey) to ingest Cargill products on a regular basis.

    Whatever you ate or drank today — a candy bar, pretzels, soup from a can, ice cream, yogurt, chewing gum, beer — chances are it included a little something from Cargill's menu of food additives.

    Its $50 billion "ingredients" business touches pretty much anything salted, sweetened, preserved, fortified, emulsified, or texturized, or anything whose raw taste or smell had to be masked in order to make it palatable.

    Sounds like a dynasty, huh?

    SEE ALSO: Here Are The Schools With The Most Billionaire Graduates

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 14 things you didn't know your iPhone headphones could do


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    Larry Page

    Forbes has released its annual list of the wealthiest people in the world.

    Somewhat unsurprisingly, many of the people appearing on Forbes' list made their fortunes by pursuing careers in tech.

    Thanks in part to the tech boom, the state of California now has 131 people with a net worth of at least $1 billion. 

    We've rounded up the 15 wealthiest people in tech, but you can see the rest of the list at Forbes.

    15. Shiv Nadar is the cofounder of the HCL Group.

    Global rank: 66

    Net worth: $14.8 billion

    Age: 69

    Source of wealth: information technology

    Source: Forbes



    14. Robin Li is the founder and CEO of Baidu.

    Global rank: 62

    Net worth: $15.3 billion

    Age: 46

    Source: internet search

    Source: Forbes



    13. Ma Huateng is the chairman and CEO of Tencent.

    Global rank: 56

    Net worth: $16.1 billion

    Age: 43

    Source: internet media

    Source: Forbes



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Stephen Schwarzman (R) and his wife Christine

    Forbes' magazine released its annual world's billionaires list on Monday, and 18 of those people made their money in private equity.

    Last year was a good year for PE the strongest since the financial crisis, according to research firm Preqin. In June, PE and venture capital assets under management reached a new high of $3.8 trillion, Preqin found.

    We've gone ahead and compiled a list of the biggest winners in the industry (classified by Forbes under "private equity" or, in Steve Schwarzman's case, "investments").

    Respect.

    Stephen Feinberg

    Rank: 1415

    Net-worth: $1.3 billion

    Age: 54

    Fund: Cerberus Capital Management

    Source: Forbes



    Jonathan Nelson

    Rank: 894

    Net-worth: $2.1 billion

    Age: 58

    Fund: Providence Equity Partners

    Source: Forbes



    Howard Marks

    Rank: 894

    Net-worth: $2.1 billion

    Age: 68

    Fund: Oaktree Capital Group LLC

    Source: Forbes



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    ernesto bertarelli

    There are a record 290 newcomers on Forbes' annual Billionaires List in 2015, but Bill Gates is still the richest person in the world.

    Even if you can't be the richest person on the planet, it's still pretty cool to be the richest person in your country.

    Many billionaires have held the title of richest in their country for a number of years, but as always, there are several new titleholders this year.

    Additional reporting by Max Rosenberg and Paige Cooperstein.

    The richest person in Ukraine: Rinat Akhmetov

    Net worth: $6.7 billion

    Forbes rank: 201

    Background: Akhmetov's net worth is comprised of DTEK, his energy company, and Metinvest, his steel producer. Recently, his wealth has suffered from weak demand and slumping prices for his steel and iron ore assets. Akhmetov also once called deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich an ally, which is causing some protest of his business. The ongoing fighting in Ukraine has also hurt his net worth, in the past year, his worth decreased by almost half.



    The richest person in New Zealand: Graeme Hart

    Net worth: $6.9 billion

    Forbes rank: 195

    Background: Hart's company, Reynolds Group Holdings, which manufactures packaging material, has annual revenue of about $14 billion. Hart also owns Carter Holt Harvey, an Australasian paper, packing and building supplies company. The billionaire dropped out of school when he was 16, and once worked as a truck driver.



    The richest person in South Africa: Johann Rupert and family

    Net worth: $7.4 billion

    Forbes rank: 179

    Background: Rupert built his fortune on luxury goods, including with the Swiss-based Compagnie Financiere Richemont, which owns brands like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Montblanc. In 2014, Rupert went on sabbatical and "spent time reading and fly-fishing," according to Forbes.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    michael jordan

    Michael Jordan is now a billionaire. Jordan made $90 million in salary throughout his NBA career.

    Now, Jordan reportedly still makes $100 million a year on his Nike brand, and owns the Charolette Hornets, valued at $725 million.

    Forbes put out its annual Billionaires list on Monday and the billionaires of the sports world aren't out there on the field, they're the ones behind the scenes. These are some of the most well-known billionaires in sports.

    #1 Steve Ballmer

    Net Worth: $21.5 billion

    Age: 58

    Former CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer bought the L.A. Clippers in 2014 for a record $2 billion. The eccentric billionaire is known for going absolutely nuts cheering at games.

    Forbes



    #2 Paul Allen

    Net Worth: $17.5 billion

    Age: 62

    Paul Allen has a stronghold on professional sports in the Pacific Northwest. Allen owns the Seattle Seahawks (NFL), the Portland Trailblazers (NBA), and the Seattle Sounders (MLS).

    Allen's Seahawks won their first Super Bowl in 2014, and made their second appearance in 2015, losing to the Patriots.

    Forbes

     



    #3 Mikhail Prokhorov

    Net Worth: $9.9 billion

    Age: 49

    Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian politician, owns the Brooklyn Nets but rumors have circulated that he is looking to sell the team. If Prokhorov does sell the team, he could make a killing as people are estimating the team is worth between $1.3 and 2.7 billion.

    Forbes



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Subrata Roy

    London's upscale Grosvenor House Hotel is up for sale after the owner, a subsidiary of Indian billionaire Subrata Roy's Sahara Group, defaulted on debts, The Telegraph's Andrew Trotman reported.

    Roy  who's been in a New Delhi jail for the past year after ignoring a court order to return more than $3 billion in illegal bonds to investors  has been trying to mortgage the Grosvenor House, on London's Park Lane, as well as New York's Plaza Hotel in order to make bail.

    The conglomerate said it still plans to refinance the hotel, despite defaulting on a Bank of China loan, Reuters reported. Deloitte will now administer the Sahara subsidiary that owns the hotel.

    Sahara was recently in talks with US investors Mirach Capital to help pay a Bank of China loan, but it turned out that Mirach didn't actually have the funds and had forged a bank letter indicating that they did.

    Roy needs to raise 100 billion rupees, or $1.6 billion, to make bail the largest bail ever set in India.

    Sahara Group is actually worth about $11 billion, according to India's NDTV, but most of that is in property and real estate (some 36,000 acres in total). So while the company's value is locked up in illiquid assets, its chairman and founder remains locked up behind bars.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This Million Dollar Submarine Is Like An Underwater Plane For The Super-Rich


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    minecraft mansion

    In December, Minecraft founder Markus Persson reportedly outbid Jay-Z and Beyonce for an amazing home in Beverly Hills.

    He paid $70 million for the over-the-top, 23,000-square-foot home.

    In an interview with Forbes, Persson said he received a mysterious offer just a few weeks later. 

    "Someone anonymously offered me $10 million more than I paid for it a couple weeks after I got it. I don’t know who it is. You could probably guess," Persson said. "At least I know now it was a good investment because it’s worth $10 million more than I paid."

    Persson seems to be enjoying life in his swanky new pad. 

    "I threw a crazy party with amazing guests," he told Forbes. "Then I kind of sat around in that house and played Infinifactory. So I guess there are elements of excess in my life now, but in general day-to-day stuff, I still do the same old wonderfully nerdy introvert stuff I did before."

    There are some things about the house he doesn't love, however.

    "One of the floors has a bunch of things I don’t like — like candy machines, [bottles of] Patrón and a gym," he said. "Come on. Look at me. Does it look like I use the gym?"

    Persson tweeted a photo of himself next to the home's enormous candy wall.

     

    SEE ALSO: The Fabulous Life Of Notch, The Hard-Partying Founder Of Minecraft

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's Video Of That Bonkers $70 Million Mansion That The Minecraft Creator Bought, Outbidding Jay Z And Beyoncé


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    Jack Ma Alibaba

    China has more billionaires than almost any other country in the world.

    In Forbes' 2015 ranking of the world's richest, 213 of the billionaires are from China. That number is second only to the United States, with 536 billionaires.

    The rankings, which were released Monday, included 290 new additions, 71 of which were from China. However, the total number of Chinese billionaires decreased from 242 in 2014.

    At the top of the list is Wang Jianlin, who owns China real estate company Dalian Wanda Group. Wang catapulted from 4th place last year to 1st in 2015 at a net worth of $24.2 billion, overtaking Alibaba's Jack Ma, who was previously number one.

    Other well-known Chinese tech company CEOs also made the top of the list, including the heads of companies Tencent, Baidu, and Xiaomi.

    Here are the top 21 richest people in China, who have made their fortunes on everything from mining to technology to real estate. 

    21. Yang Huiyan

    World rank: #309

    Net-worth: $5 billion

    Age: 33

    Company: Country Garden Holdings

    Industry: Real estate

    Source: Forbes



    20. Lu Guanqiu

    World rank: #301

    Net-worth: $5.1 billion

    Age: 70

    Company: Wanxiang Group

    Industry: Diversified

    Source: Forbes



    19. Guo Guangchang

    World rank: #259

    Net-worth: $5.7 billion

    Age: 48

    Company: Fosun International

    Industry: Diversified

    Source: Forbes



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    We've said it before and we'll say it again: 15 Central Park West is the most powerful apartment building in the world. The Manhattan condo is filled with bankers, hedge funders, business tycoons, and foreign billionaires. Goldman Sachs has a major presence in the building, as do some huge hedge funds.

    As is increasingly common in New York City's luxury towers, many of the owners at 15 Central Park West have shielded their identities by using LLCs and trusts to buy their apartments. We worked with Michael Gross, author of 15 Central Park West chronicle "House of Outrageous Fortune," to unmask the identities of most of the building's residents.

    The graphic below offers the most possible complete view of the origins of wealth inside the thick limestone walls of the world's most powerful building.

    15 Central Park West Apartment Resident Graphic

    The paperback version of "House of Outrageous Fortune" will be released on March 10. Preorder a copy here.

    Hayley Hudson contributed to this post.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Watch 2 armed gangs fight on a busy road in China


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    Forbes just released its annual ranking of the top billionaires in the world. Once again, Bill Gates, beating out Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim, tops out the list.

    Unsurprisingly, a lot of tech billionaires made the list. Despite the vast quantities of cash flying around the tech industry, however, no one came particularly close to Gates.

    Here's how the top ten tech billionaires match up to Gates, via a visualization from Dadaviz:

    Billionaires

    SEE ALSO: The 19 richest people in sports

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 14 things you didn't know your iPhone headphones could do


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    octopus yacht

    Yacht ownership has always been a beloved hobby of the well to do. But the recent phenomenon of the mega-yacht — sometimes called the superyacht — has taken it to a whole new level.

    With prices ranging from $200 million to a incredible $1.1 billion, the megayacht is the plaything of the world's wealthiest individuals. So just who are these people?

    They come from all different places and made their money in a variety of ways — there are Hollywood tycoons and oil Sheikhs, politicians and industrialists. But they all have one thing in common. They are all billionaires. 

    Here are the 15 most expensive mega yachts in the world and the billionaires who own them.

    Billionaires vs Superyacht Infographic FINAL

    SEE ALSO: YACHT OF THE WEEK: This $150 Million Behemoth Is The Rolls-Royce Of Superyachts

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 14 things you didn't know your iPhone headphones could do


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    RTR4BHH7

    With a net worth of nearly half a billion dollars, Darrell Issa (R-California) is the richest man in any of the three branches of US government. 

    But were he at a meeting of China's National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress, he would rank only 166th, according to the data from the Hurun Report's 2015 Global Rich List obtained by The New York Times (via @ericfish85).

    "The lack of institutional checks and balances allows politics and money to come together on a scale that is not imaginable in a capitalist country like the USA," Steve Tsang, a professor of contemporary Chinese studies at the University of Nottingham in England, told The Times via email.

    As of 2013, Issa was worth $448.4 million. That's poor, however, by Chinese politicians' standards. Eighteen of China's delegates have a net worth greater than the entirety of Congress, the nine Supreme Court justices, and President Obama's cabinet.

    In total, 106 members of China's National People's Congress and 97 members of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress, which opened Wednesday, are on Hurun's China Rich List. Their combined wealth hits $463.8 billion.

    By comparison, the median wealth of American politicians was just over $1 million in 2013, according to CNN Money. Of course, that is still 18 times the earning power of the typical American household.

    According to last year's Hurun numbers, the 50 richest members of Congress held $1.6 billion, while the 50 wealthiest NPC members controlled $94.7 billion, as The Economist reported.

    Together the US and China dominate the list of the worlds' billionaires, with 537 and 430 respectively — roughly half of the Hurun Report's 2015 listWhile Huron called New York City the "billionaire capital of the world," five Chinese cities sit in the top 10: Hong Kong, Beijing, Shenzen, Taipei, and Shanghai.

    SEE ALSO: The 21 richest people in China

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: China Just Built A Massive $350 Million Bridge That Ends In A Dirt Field In North Korea


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    buffett, winfrey, gatesThere is no formulaic, step-by-step process when it comes to achieving success. 

    However, there does seem to be one unifying trait that incredibly successful people share: they all read, a lot.

    In a recent LinkedIn post, Andrew Collins, CEO of Mailman Group, explored this commonality between Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and other successful people.

    Collins highlights what three powerful billionaires have said about reading: 

    • Investor Warren Buffett estimates that 80% of his working day is dedicated to reading and reflecting. He is famously quoted as saying, "I just sit in my office and read all day."
    • Media giant Oprah Winfrey began reading as a toddler and never stopped: "Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi."
    • Cofounder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, credits his success to books: “I really had a lot of dreams when I was a kid, and I think a great deal of that grew out of the fact that I had a chance to read a lot.”

    Collins explored five key benefits of reading. Here are three:

    1. It drives you to emulate other successful people. 

    "By reading a lot about someone you admire you’re exposed to their experiences, influences, and success. It’s a great first step in that direction," Collins says.

    2. It sparks ideas.

    "Ideas are generated by other ideas," he explains. "The more you read, the more your mind is mapping, connecting and solving problems."

    3. It helps you relax.

    "Reading is a great way to relax the mind, dive deep into a subject and really learn," says Collins. "It also helps you to slow down, see things clearer, and take a breath."

    Read the full LinkedIn post here.

    SEE ALSO: 20 books that the world’s most successful people recommend

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 14 things you didn't know your iPhone headphones could do


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    Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel

    Life is good for Evan Spiegel.

    Snapchat is reportedly about to receive a $200 million investment from ecommerce giant Alibaba. It's also in the process of raising another round of funding that would place their valuation at $19 billion.

    And with a net worth of $1.5 billion, the 24-year-old CEO is officially the youngest billionaire in the world, according to Forbes.

    Spiegel lives a charmed life — and he knows it.

    "I am a young, white, educated male," he once said at a conference. "I got really, really lucky. And life isn't fair."

    We've pulled the highlights from profiles by LA Weekly, Business Insider, and more.

    Spiegel grew up in the Pacific Palisades, a ritzy Los Angeles enclave just east of Malibu. He was the oldest son of two lawyers, though his parents divorced when he was in high school.



    When Spiegel turned 16 and got his driver's license, he was given a 2006 Cadillac Escalade, which he parked in the gated Southern California Edison parking lot next to his school. Spiegel's father represented Edison during the energy crisis.



    The high schooler wanted a more fuel-efficient car since he found himself driving in the city fairly often. In a letter from 2008, Spiegel asked his parents to lease him a BMW 550i, which retails for about $75,000. "Cars bring me sheer joy," he wrote. "I would really appreciate you validating me and all of my hard work by leasing the BMW."



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Billionaire entrepreneur John Paul DeJoria made his fortune by cofounding mega-companies like Paul Mitchell hair products and Patron tequila. Now, he's trying to tackle the digital music arena with his new company Rok Mobile.

    We talked to DeJoria about his financial successes and the lessons he learned along the way.

    Produced by Graham Flanagan. Additional camera by Justin Gmoser.

    Follow BI Video: On Facebook

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    sol kerzner private jet couple

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Fueled by higher stock and home values, Americans' net worth reached a record high in the final three months of 2014.

    Household wealth rose 1.9 percent during the October-December quarter to nearly $83 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Thursday.

    Stock and mutual fund portfolios gained $742 billion, while the value of Americans' homes rose $356 billion.

    The typical household didn't benefit much, though. Most of the wealth remains concentrated among richer families. The wealthiest 10 percent of U.S. households own about 80 percent of stocks.

    Still, greater wealth could help lift spending and economic growth. Higher stock and home values can make people feel more financially secure and more willing to spend, and consumer spending fuels about 70 percent of the economy.

    The Fed's figures aren't adjusted for population growth or inflation. Household wealth, or net worth, reflects the value of homes, stocks and other assets minus mortgages, credit cards and other debts

    U.S. corporations are also seeing sharp improvements in their finances, the Fed report showed. Businesses amassed $2 trillion in cash by the end of last year— a record high — up from less than $1.9 trillion three months earlier.

    Cash-rich corporations could spend more on investments in machinery, computers and other equipment. That would make workers more productive and accelerate economic growth.

    They could also use some of their cash to raise pay at a time when many employees have been stuck with stagnant wages. Some economists have criticized publicly traded companies for spending heavily on repurchasing their own shares, which boosts profits and serves shareholders rather than employees.

    Businesses are also taking advantage of low interest rates by taking on more debt, which typically signals confidence in the economy and future growth. Business debt rose 7.2 percent in the fourth quarter, the sharpest quarterly increase in more than six years.

    During the Great Recession, which officially ended in June 2009, Americans' net worth plummeted as stock and home values sank. Household wealth tumbled to $55 trillion in the first quarter of 2009 from a pre-recession peak of $67.9 trillion. Wealth didn't surpass that peak until the third quarter of 2012.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    private jet

    Yesterday's American upper class is becoming part of a new global upper class. The upper income group in the United States still exists, of course, but they are no longer really an American social class. They have been thoroughly globalized.

    Given the collapse of the Soviet Union, the opening of China, the rise of new emerging markets, and other changes, the wealth-creation opportunities available to them greatly increased. However, the same was true for the upper classes in other nations as well. So you could not do it from the US alone, you had to hit the road. And they did!

    In five decades of working in economic development, both as an employee and as a consultant, I have personally witnessed the dramatic growth of the global upper class. They are citizens of one nation or another, but they live everywhere, travel everywhere, do business everywhere, and profit (or not) everywhere. They have a shared language now, English, and its impact is undeniable.

    These days, seemingly no matter where you go if it's a major city, there are modern airports, major hotel chains, a variety of upper-end restaurants, big shopping malls, and a whole raft of services and products available that twenty years ago, even ten, were not available. Many of the nations I worked in barely had anything recognizable as an "upper class", beyond a tiny number of families. In most of the world, that is now history.

    If you are not familiar with the growth of the global upper class, I could supply plenty of personal experiences, but that takes too much space. For an idea of how things have gone, I recommend you download the latest annual report from Knight Frank, a large global real estate firm that focuses on "high net worth individuals". Reading through the report, even scanning, will give you an idea of the truly "global" nature of this new upper class. Their numbers will include all qualifying people who reside in a given city, foreign residents as well as citizens.

    The fact that they have identified 11 individuals with wealth ranging from $100 million to a billion, plus another 103 between $30M and $100M, and an estimated 4,700 between a million and $30M (nearly double what it was in 2007) in my current city of residence, Panama City, Panama, comes as no surprise at all.

    So the upper class is now global, so what?

    This is not something amenable to statistics, charts and graphs, but it is something I have seen happening in my work all over the world, especially in the last two decades. The nature of consulting in economic development typically requires working with members of national upper classes, among others. They are the ones who either make the decisions because they are also the leadership, or whose influence directly impacts their leadership's decisions.

    For the first three decades of my work, I found that the upper classes of nations other than the wealthiest were very isolated and knew it. Not only were they wealthier, they were much better-educated, much better-informed globally, and much more traveled. They often sought me out for informal dinners or conversations, if only to have the opportunity to speak with someone who, despite being middle class in his own society, shared enough in common with them to make for good conversation, the kind of conversation they simply could not have with 99% or more of the people surrounding them at home. For all their money, there was something often a little pathetic in their sense of isolation and, although a few were not the finest people I have met, I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for them. It has been years since that last happened.

    I first really noticed this in 1995 when I re-visited Accra, the capital of Ghana in West Africa where I had lived and worked in prior years. The city had new hotels, far better than anything there before, and they were packed with businesspeople from all over the world looking for opportunities, something you never saw in the 70's and 80's. In talking to Ghanaian friends, I found they were far better off now and far more likely to have had real experience outside Ghana. In addition, they were much more comfortable talking to these foreigners who were filling the hotels. Their sense of connection with the "outside world" had dramatically improved, but they were not yet part of a global upper class.

    In the two decades since, that experience has become rare indeed. Today, upper-income people from every nation are linked together as never before and the pace continues to accelerate, regardless of the North Atlantic and its "crises."

    As money has become available to more and more people everywhere, life has changed. National upper classes grew in size and in wealth. The foreign upper classes started arriving in their search for investments and the national upper class did the same in the opposite direction. They found each other. And wherever they go, they find other people much like themselves with whom they now have more in common than they do with the great majority of the folks back home. They mix, meet, and do business so continuously that they may have different traditions and customs, but they now understand and can deal with those whose traditions and customs are quite different. They "speak the same language" in more ways than one.

    The upside of all this is that they no longer feel isolated, either in their home nations or abroad.

    The downside of all this is that they are so thoroughly interconnected that they spend nearly no time with the rest of us. They are losing contact with the middle class, even the upper-middle class.

    For a very long time, I have received newsletters written by people who oversee a lot of money and who are wealthy themselves. In decades past, they focused on their own nation or those similar to it, the so-called First World. They talked about their national politics and their own people of all classes, understanding that these people were the source of much, if not all, of their wealth and that the decisions their fellow citizens made would directly impact on them and their wealth in a very real sense.

    Today, I read the same kind of newsletter, sometimes from some of the same people, and they run along lines like this, "I had a very interesting visit at the conference in London last week when I spoke with A, B, and C (people of their global class). I am having a great time here in Jo'burg where I spoke with two members of the National Assembly and the Minister of Economic Development and I will leave on Saturday for a conference on global economics in Tokyo, stopping for a couple days to visit government officials in Mumbai." That sort of thing.

    Sometimes they "lighten it up" by mentioning that they spoke to the owner of a restaurant where they had lunch or with their taxi driver on the way to the airport or with a barber who cut their hair, and will share a few comments these gentlemen made as some kind of profound insight into the feelings of the common people.

    They will share a half-dozen graphs and charts of economic statistics for a given nation, and nothing from opinion polls on related topics in that nation (they all have polls, even Afghanistan) that are the only "voice" most of the rest of us have that might catch their attention. They have lost touch with the rest of us. They are a global class now and more than sufficient in number to fully consume each other's time and attention.

    Life is not just economic. It is, at the very least, social, economic, and political. Their "analyses" are much too limited and short-sighted. I can tell you this. When I was hired to do an economic analysis in any nation, I always included sections on the social and political environment, and then weave them together to get a full picture. I was expected to do this, by myself as well as by my clients. It only made sense. It still does.

    You know, to be honest, when I read these flawed analyses from people who are, themselves, part of the global upper class, I can't help but think three things. They are too often 1) the people who created, implemented, marketed, or at least encouraged the very policies that brought on the global financial crisis that has yet to conclude and 2) did little or nothing of any substance to warn the rest of us or demand changes in policies from their fellow global upper-class friends when that was still possible, but 3) seem to have benefited from it all. It wasn't just the bankers who ran the crazy mortgage schemes who got off with only a reprimand and a brief period of negative publicity before getting back to making money off their own failures. Most of these analysts got off a lot easier than that. But those who listened to them? Maybe not so much.

    So, do I hate the global upper class? No, not at all. Their behavior was and is human behavior. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. However, professionally, much of it has been distinctly unimpressive, if not downright stupid, but humans are humans. However, this doesn't mean I appreciate their inability to see what is happening to them now and, as a result, how that is affecting their high-priced analysis of the world the rest of us live in. If they screw up again, which is entirely possible, they better move along to other things or they may end up at least ignored or, if what comes is bad enough, hated. If they are genuine analysts, they will figure this out for themselves.

    They cannot participate in it, pontificate on it, and profit from it, without taking their share of responsibility for it.

    My next commentary will attempt to answer another related question. Is there evidence of the birth of a global middle class?

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    Chicken Cup

    Billionaire Liu Yiqian is a regular globetrotter, often traveling abroad to bid millions of dollars in auctions for ancient Chinese art. But he usually travels for free.

    That's after Bloomberg reporters inspired him to start using his air miles, earned from the millions of dollars he's paid on his American Express Centurion card for the ceramics and antiquities he collects, Bloomberg's Frederik Balfour reports.

    After Yiqian's last major purchase back in July  $36 million for a ceramic piece known as the "Chicken Cup"  Bloomberg asked Yiqian about the frequent flyer points he must have earned.

    Now, Yiqian, who is worth about $1 billion, is sure to use his miles whenever he travels  including when he recently flew to Hong Kong to pay $45 million for a 15th century silk Buddhist tapestry he won in a November auction.

    That took more than 30 transactions to process, and should earn earn Yiqian another 18,750,000 points, Bloomberg estimates.

    Read the full story over at Bloomberg>>

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    Ira Rennert Fair Field Sagaponack

    Junk bond billionaire Ira Rennert, whom investors have sued for using company funds to build his giant Hamptons estate, will have to pay back more than $200 million in damages, Crain's Aaron Elstein reported Monday.

    A NYC judge previously ruled for Rennert to pay creditors $118 million plus interest. Interest landed at little under $100 million, bringing the total amount due to $213 million. 

    "We are disappointed by the ruling today. However, the jury verdict, which found that Renco Metals was solvent according to each test under the law and that Mr. Rennert acted in good faith, remains fundamentally irreconcilable. We are vigorously pursuing all avenues to have the verdict and the damages award completely vacated," a Renco spokesman said in a statement to Business Insider.

    Rennert stands accused of looting millions from the mining company Magnesium Corporation, owned by Rennert's holding company Renco Group. The money allegedly came from issuing more than $100 million in MagCorp bonds, which instead went to Renco and the billionaire's estate.

    The Sagaponack mansion in question is one of the largest homes in the U.S. at 62,000 square feet and 29 bedrooms. Rennert got his start in junk bonds and has an estimated net worth of $6.1 billion today, according to Forbes.

    Read more at Crain's >>

    SEE ALSO: 11 crazy facts about junk bond billionaire Ira Rennert's $248 million Hamptons mansion

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    bill gatesLONDON (Reuters) - Developing countries facing potentially pricey legal challenges from big tobacco firms are to get help from a new $4 million fund created by the philanthropists Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg.

    Announcing the creation of the anti-tobacco trade litigation fund on Wednesday, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said countries with limited resources should not be bullied into making bad health policy choices.

    "This new fund is going to help countries who are sued by the tobacco industry fight back in court and win," Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York and one of the world's richest people, told reporters in a telebriefing.

    Bloomberg and Gates, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, cited examples such as Uruguay, which since 2010 has been fighting a legal challenge by the cigarette maker Philip Morris International against the use of graphic health warnings on tobacco products.

    Australia has also been fending off a World Trade Organization challenge and a legal challenge by Philip Morris against its anti-tobacco laws.

    The tobacco industry's use of international trade agreements to threaten and prevent countries from passing tobacco control laws was unacceptable, Bloomberg said.

    "This is not about trade," he said. "No one is a stronger supporter of capitalism and trade than I am. This is about sovereignty and whether a country has the right to set its own public health policies."

    According to the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation's 2012 Tobacco Atlas, the combined profit of the world's six leading tobacco companies was $35.1 billion in 2010.

    Britain voted last week to introduce a ban on branding on cigarette packs, following Australia in introducing so-called "plain packaging" to try to protect public health

    British American Tobacco, the world's second-largest cigarette maker, has said it will take action against Britain, which has a $29 billion tobacco industry, but the department of health said it would "defend this policy robustly against any legal challenge".

    Gates noted in a statement that smaller countries did not have the same resources as Australia and Britain.

    "Country leaders who are trying to protect their citizens from the harms of tobacco should not be deterred by threats of costly legal challenges from huge tobacco companies," he said.

    The U.S-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will administer the fund, starting with $4 million to be used "to encourage and assist governments to defend themselves", the philanthropists said in a statement. The initial investment is expected to grow as more donors come on board, they said.

     

    (Editing by Alison Williams)

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