Billionaires' Money Shrinks by Almost a Quarter in Year; WEALTH in Association with Lloydstsb.Com/corporatemarkets

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The world's richest people have failed to escape the ravages of recession with billionaires seeing their wealth shrink by almost a quarter in the last year according to business magazine Forbes.

Its annual list revealed that nine in ten billionaires lost money over the past 12 months, with the average loss being 23 per cent of total wealth.

Britons areamong the biggest losers on the list - Sir Richard Branson and Sir Philip Green saw their fortunes slashed, it is suggested. Meanwhile, two-thirds of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's fortune was wiped out last year.

In a sign that the global economic downturn is hitting the highest earners, the Forbes list is smaller than last year. In 2008 there were 1,125 billionaires. This year, the number of uber-rich had shrunk to 793 - a drop of almost a third.

Bill Gates has regained his position as the world's richest man, with a personal fortune of EUR40 billion. Despite losing EUR18 billion during the year, the Microsoft founder leapfrogged Warren Buffett who took a EUR25 billion hit over the same period. Mr Buffett dropped to second place with a not-so-meagre 37 billion dollars (pounds 26.8 billion).

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is the only person in the top 20 to see his wealth increase. …