Millions of young men all over the world would like to be on his place. Mark Zuckerberg probably likes Forbes today: the magazine has named him the 35th richest – as in most valuable – person in the US, passing Apple’s Steve Jobs (42nd) and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch (38th) on the way.
The co-founder of Facebook, aged 26, is estimated to be worth $6.9bn, based on his shareholding in the social networking site, which boasts 500 million members worldwide. The value is calculated based on recent investments in his company by outside businesses in return for shares.
After starting the website as a computing student in 2004, Mr Zuckerberg now ranks 35th above well-known, and much older, heavyweights such as Rupert Murdoch, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs and film director George Lucas.
But while they have been at the top of the annual Forbes 400 list for years, Mr Zuckerberg is the star earner this year after his worth went up by 245 per cent – the largest relative increase on this year’s Forbes US rich list.
The complete Forbes list of the 400 richest people in the US is topped, as it has been for years, by Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, who has since left it to carry out charitable work in the developing world. His shares in the company are valued at $54bn – up by $4bn from last year.
Since taking a back seat from the company he has also become one of the most generous people in America, donating more than $26 billion to charity through his own foundations.
And Mr Zuckerberg has followed the Microsoft founder’s relatively modest approach to life, as Facebook has grown to more than 500 million users, knocking Google off its perch as the top website. The 26-year-old lives in a humble rented home in Paolo Alto, California and drives a $20,000 car.
Luisa Kroll, Forbes global wealth editor said Facebook.com was the success story of this year which is still suffering from the fallout of the global recession.
“At a time where there are a lot of the same people on the list and not a lot of new things being created, you do have Facebook,” she said.
But despite the economic downturn, anyone wanting to get on the list this year must have a personal fortune of at least $967 million for the first time since 2008. America’s super-rich got even richer this year with the country’s wealthiest 400 people increasing their collective value to $1.37 trillion, up 8 per cent from last year.
No. 2 on the list was investor Warren Buffett, worth $45 billion, up $5 billion. Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s net worth was unchanged, in third place, at $27 billion. Christy Walton, heir to Walmart founder Sam Walton’s fortune, was in the fourth place with $24 billion, up $2.5 billion.
Mr Zuckerberg followed up the unveiling of the Forbes rich list last night by revealing that he is set to make a $100 million donation to help turn around some of America’s worst schools in New Jersey. He plans to announce the huge gift on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” tomorrow.
But critics say the announcement comes a week before the much-anticipated opening of ‘The Social Network,’ a Hollywood movie which reportedly portrays him in an unfavourable light. The film details the creation of the hugely popular social networking site that has made him one of the youngest billionaires in America.
Much of the Forbes list is made up of technology moguls and investors including George Soros, who is ranked at number 14 with a fortune of $13,7 billion.
The list is also overwhelmingly male with just a sprinkling of women including Walmart heiress Christy Walton who is fourth richest with $23 billion.
Representing the world of entertainment were Steven Spielberg at number 110 with $2.9 billion, and Hollywood’s richest man, media mogul David Geffen who came in at 54 with a net worth of $4.8billion.
Forbes also highlighted a number of ‘billionaires in the making’ including rapper Jay-Z who has a personal fortune of $435 million with a spread of business interests and entrepreneurial projects.
A measure of his success is that in 2007 he tied with Elvis Presley for the most number one albums in the U.S. by a solo performer, only to break the record last year. Now only The Beatles have more number one records with 19 to Jay-Z’s 11.
California is the state with the most billionaires — 83 — among them No. 332 Meg Whitman, worth $1.2 billion, the Republican candidate for governor of the state in November elections.
According to Forbes the list is compiled by research throughout the year involving employees, rivals, attorneys, ex-spouses and securities analysts. “We keep track of their moves: the deals they negotiate, the land they’re selling, the paintings they’re buying, the causes they give to,” said Miss Kroll. [Forbes via NY Daily News and Daily Telegraph (UK)]