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Dupa ultima statistica a celor mai bogati oameni din lume, Silvio Berlusconi ocupa locul 4 printre cei mai bogati oameni din lume. Primul ramane Bill Gates
ciofu said:
Dupa ultima statistica a celor mai bogati oameni din lume, Silvio Berlusconi ocupa locul 4 printre cei mai bogati oameni din lume. Primul ramane Bill Gates

Esti amabil sa dai si sursa, asa cum se procedeaza de regula?
Berlusconi laut "Financial Times" viertreichster Mann der Welt

swissinfo 14. November 2004 18:01

Berlusconi laut "Financial Times" viertreichster Mann der Welt

ROM - Der italienische Regierungschef Silvio Berlusconi besetzt Platz vier im Ranking der 25 reichsten und mächtigsten Milliardäre der Welt. Die Rangliste wurde von der britischen Tageszeitung "Financial Times" veröffentlicht.

Berlusconi folgt dem Besitzer des US-Informatikkolosses Microsoft, Bill Gates, dem australischen TV-Tycoon Rupert Murdoch und dem amerikanischen Finanzier ungarischer Abstammung George Soros.

Das Ranking wurde nicht nur auf Grund des Vermögens, sondern auch auf Grund des Einflusses der Milliardäre auf die öffentliche Meinung erstellt. Laut der Zeitung gibt es weltweit 600 Milliardäre.

"Einige von ihnen sind kaum nennenswert, wenn nicht wegen ihrer Luxusyachten, andere ändern die Welt, sie ändern unsere Ansichten als Wähler und unsere Lebensweise", schrieb die Zeitung.
Tradus pe scurt:

Primul loc il ocupa Bill Gates, Locul 2 Rupert Murdoch si Locul 3 americanul de origine ungara George Soros.

Ranking-ul a fost realizat nu numai pe baza averii, ci si pe influenta miliardarilor dupa opinia publica. Conform ziarului Financial Times sunt 600 de miliardari in intreaga lume
Articolul orginal din FT

Spending power There are nearly 600 billionaires around the globe. Some are barely noticeable beyond their impact on the luxury yacht trade, but others are changing everything from the way we vote to how long we live. Here are the 25 we believe are doing the most to shape the world

From Financial Times - 13/11/2004 (6764 words)
Rich lists are usually simple affairs: the more you have, the higher you climb. But the FT billionaires list is different. While enormous riches are necessary to gain entry, wealth alone does not guarantee a place on it. This list reflects the impact the world's most significant billionaires have on the rest of us.

Simply being the steward of a flourishing business empire, or quietly managing inherited wealth does not win a seat at the table. Writing out a cheque and mumbling a few words about "putting something back" before immediately disappearing will not do either.

To generate the list, FT correspondents around the world submitted names of the billionaires who, in their view, have done most to bring about significant and lasting social, political or cultural change, either because of the revolutionary nature of their businesses, or through the way in which they have used their wealth. This list was then refined and presented to a panel of judges for further consideration.

It is inevitable that some readers will quarrel with the final selection - some may be disappointed not to see their names here. We have not included certain "up-and-coming" figures who might have a significant claim to a place on the list in future. Conspicuously absent, for example, are the newly created billionaire founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Their business has certainly revolutionised the way we get information, but unlike other candidates they have only just gained access to their previously theoretical wealth.

In the US, the inheritors of the Wal-Mart empire are all clearly billionaires and their business is changing the world. But the radical achievements of Wal-Mart can be primarily credited to their late father, Sam Walton, and the executives who lead the company today. So, no Waltons on the final list.

Deciding who was on or off was one challenge. Ranking them was another. Here again our panel had to make qualitative rather than quantitative judgments. Does promoting the fight against disease rate more highly than funding political parties or movements, no matter how momentous the outcome? Are advances in biotechnology more valuable than building peace in the Middle East? Whose business empire has changed the world more: Rupert Murdoch's or Ted Turner's?

The answers, inevitably, are snapshot decisions taken at a certain moment in time. In the future, will Michael Dell be regarded as "the Henry Ford of personal computing"? Has Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Ikea, transformed the way the world wants to live, or just the rooms in which it does so?

The judges were divided over whether history would eventually judge Intel founder Gordon Moore or Microsoft's Bill Gates the world's most significant billionaire. Moore was the great innovator, it was argued. Without Intel, the PC revolution could never have happened. "Did Microsoft ever invent anything?" asked one judge.

But Bill Gates eventually topped our list, not just because Microsoft helped revolutionise our use of computers and made him the world's richest man, but because he used his wealth to become the world's biggest philanthropist, tackling three of the globe's worst diseases: Aids, malaria and hepatitis B. As for Moore, when each panel member's competing judgments were weighed and balanced against each other, he ended up slipping to fifth place.

There will be much to argue about in the final list. But beyond dispute is the impact, both positive and negative, that these 25 people are making, and will continue to make, on the lives of billions of people.

1. Bill Gates

How he made it: Founded in April 1975 with his partner Paul Allen, Microsoft has made Bill Gates, 49, the world's richest man, with an estimated net worth of Dollars 46.6bn. Now, 29 years later, there very nearly is "a computer on every desk and in every home" in the developed world, and nearly all of them are running Microsoft's operating system, Windows.

What he's doing with it: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation controls Dollars 27bn, and focuses on improving the health and living conditions of some of the world's poorest people. Aids, malaria and hepatitis B are among its chief priorities for action. Last month, for example, came news of successful preliminary trials for a vaccine against malaria, which kills more than one million people annually, most of them children under five. The breakthrough owed a lot to Gates, whose foundation donated Dollars 150m to speed up research on the vaccine. Gates has declared that his three children will not inherit vast wealth from him. His company, however, remains unpopular, a "virtual monopolist" according to the EU; a provider of frustratingly unreliable software, according to critics. Perhaps only when his good works are better known will popular sentiment towards Gates start to shift.

What he says: "Is the rich world aware of how four billion of the six billion live? If we were aware, we would want to help out, we'd want to get involved."

What they say about him: "Bill Gates wants the world to see him as Edison - the great innovator. But he's not Edison, he's Rockefeller." - Larry Ellison, chief executive of Oracle

2. Rupert Murdoch

How he made it: Born into a newspaper family, Murdoch's first title was the Adelaide News, inherited from his father Sir Keith Murdoch. He moved on from Australia, making a splash in Fleet Street at the end of the 1960s with the acquisition of The Sun and News of the World. The New York Post fell into his arms in the 1970s, followed by 20th Century Fox and Fox TV, and, most controversially, The Times and Sunday Times newspapers in the UK. He battered the print unions in London, and bet the company on satellite television (BSkyB). In the 1990s he looked east, with Star Television in Asia, and acquired 34 per cent control of satellite broadcaster DirecTV in the US, held through the Fox Entertainment subsidiary. His wealth is estimated at Dollars 6.9bn.

What he's doing with it: The 73-year-old former Australian, now American, is the world's pre-eminent media mogul in an age when the media enjoy unprecedented power and influence. To his 175 newspapers worldwide, add satellite TV delivered to five continents, not least North America, where 35 stations reach more than 40 per cent of the US. Much of it is sport and entertainment, which means that at any one time, one in five homes in the US are tuned into a show that his company produced or delivered. With Fox News and The Sun newspaper in particular, Murdoch has a pulpit that he uses to speak to the world. He was a cheerleader for the war in Iraq, and opposes the adoption of the euro in the UK. As the owner of HarperCollins, however, he was also the unlikely publisher of the hardback edition of Michael Moore's best-selling polemic Stupid White Men. Business is business.

What he says: "Monopolies are terrible things... until you have one."

What they say about him: "The late Fuhrer, the first thing he did, like all dictators, was take over the press and use it to further his agenda. Basically, that is what Rupert Murdoch does with his media... " - Ted Turner

3. George Soros

How he made it: One of the original hedge fund giants, Soros Fund Management was founded in 1973. Soros famously made Dollars 1bn with his bet against the Bank of England over the exchange rate of the pound in September 1992. As his other activities have increased, he has handed over the reins to his sons Robert and Jonathan. Estimated wealth: Dollars 7.2bn.

What he's doing with it: Perhaps the archetypal activist billionaire, Soros, 74, founded the Open Society Institute in 1993 to support his foundations in central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. His work in these regions began in 1984 as part of an attempt to influence debate and, he claims, help prepare the way for a post-communist world. His support has taken the form of scholarships and bursaries for students, as well as other investments. The "Open Society" label is a tribute to Soros's inspiration, Karl Popper, whose work made a huge impression on the young Hungarian while he was studying at the London School of Economics in the early 1950s. In the run up to this month's US election, Soros became one of the biggest political campaign donors in American history, spending an estimated Dollars 18.5m to defeat President Bush.

What he says: "I decided the most important thing I could do to foster global open societies was to get Bush out of the White House."

What they say about him: "Even when he wears the motley of the philanthropist, the hedge fund operator is never far from the surface. In countries where he felt nothing much was being accomplished in furthering this goal of 'open societies', he has closed his foundations, selling such 'losing' ideological positions just as readily as, in business, he sold losing financial ones." - David Rieff, author

4. Silvio Berlusconi

How he made it: The Italian prime minister has seized opportunity after opportunity in more than 40 years in business. Construction was his first big earner, but by 1975 his Fininvest empire controlled 100 different businesses. His family owns almost half of Mediaset, Italy's largest commercial television network. He also has banking, insurance and publishing interests. At 68, he is Italy's richest person, with an estimated wealth of Dollars 10bn.

What he's doing with it: In 1994 Berlusconi took the football fans' chant of "Forza Italia!" ("Come on Italy!") and turned it into a political movement. While his club AC Milan reigned on the pitch, Berlusconi's first taste of power (he was elected prime minister in 1994) ended after only 226 days. He regrouped and prepared for his return, which came in 2001. With calculated charm as his chief political weapon, Berlusconi has done battle with judges and rivals, legislating to suit his commercial and personal needs, daring his opponents to bring him down. He aligned himself with George W. Bush and Tony Blair on the war in Iraq, courting further unpopularity at home and abroad. In the next 18 months he faces a challenge worthy of his famous self-confidence: Romano Prodi, once he has at last disposed of his duties in Brussels, looks certain to return to Italy to challenge Berlusconi for the premiership in the country's next general election.

What he says: "Only I can turn this country around."

What they say about him: "Unfit to lead Italy" - The Economist

5. Gordon Moore

How he made it: Co-founded Intel in 1968. In 1965 he coined "Moore's Law", which correctly predicted that the number of transistors the industry would be able to place on a computer chip would double every 18 months. He led Intel from start-up to greatness. At 75, he is now chairman emeritus. His wealth is estimated at Dollars 3.8bn.

What he's doing with it: In 2000, Moore used half his stake in Intel to establish the Gordon E. and Betty I. Moore Foundation as one of the 10 largest grant-makers in the US. (Without this donation his current net wealth would be double what it is today.) He is particularly interested in environmental and educational issues. In October 2001 he announced a 10-year, Dollars 600m donation to his alma mater, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He continues to voice his concerns on the training of engineers and technicians, as well as intervening in conservation and environmental causes.

What he says: "I've got more (money) than I need... We both (he and his wife, Betty) see the wild places of only decades ago being changed to golf courses and resort hotels and do not think that the whole world should go that way. I hope we will really make a difference long term (i.e. 10,000 years)."

What they say about him: "He didn't invent things, but he clearly saw the way to get somewhere. He, more than anyone else, set his eyes on a goal and got everybody to go there." - Arthur Rock, Intel's first chairman

6. Steve Jobs

How he made it: Co-founded iconic computer company Apple in 1976. Ousted after an internal struggle in 1985, he returned a decade later and set Apple back on the path to innovation. Jobs also owns Pixar studios, creators of Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Aged 49, he is worth Dollars 2.6bn.

What he's doing with it: Who says computers have to be ugly? Apple has done more than any other high-tech company to make technology attractive, usable and - crucially - cool. The Apple Macintosh, and then the iMac, set the bar ever higher for others. The iPod MP3 music player has become a must-have fashion and cultural accessory. Jobs' business acumen may sometimes be questioned - too much creativity, not enough management - but he has left his mark. His Pixar studio productions have re-energised the worldwide audience for animated films.

What he says: "I was worth over Dollars 1m when I was 23, and over Dollars 10m when I was 24, and over Dollars 100m when I was 25, and it wasn't that important because I never did it for the money."

What they say about him: "Jobs is someone who is an incredible elitist who yet yearns for the patronage of the masses... his own personal tastes are incredibly austere and minimalistic. It's pretty difficult to imagine a strawberry plastic iMac in the middle of Steve Jobs' house." - Alan Deutschman, Jobs' biographer

7. Nicholas Frank Oppenheimer

How he made it: The 59-year-old De Beers heir heads the third generation of the family to control the global diamond empire (they own 45 per cent). Together with their holding in the mining company Anglo American, the family - Africa's richest - is valued at Dollars 4.4bn.

What he's doing with it: On August 5 2003, Nicky Oppenheimer organised a gathering of about 100 of South Africa's most influential people in the wood-panelled library of Little Brenthurst, the family's Johannesburg mansion, to listen to his plan ("the Brenthurst Initiative") to reform the South African economy. President Thabo Mbeki was there, along with most of his cabinet. Former president F.W. de Klerk was also present. Cynics will suggest that Oppenheimer is merely trying to shape the future political and economic agenda of the country before somebody else shapes it in a less comfortable way. But others feel Oppenheimer is sincere when he talks of "win-win" outcomes in the South African economy, with more opportunities being provided to black South Africans to build a meaningful stake in their economy. One thing is certain: peaceful growth will be preferable to De Beers than social breakdown and political unrest.

What he says: "Since it (the family legacy) sort of fell upon one, well, you've got to pick up that ball and run with it."

What they call him: "The Cuban", because of his distinctive full beard

8. Michael Bloomberg

How he made it: When Salomon Brothers was bought out in 1981, Bloomberg, who had been a partner for eight years, was fired and collected a Dollars 10m pay-off. Using that money, he backed his own belief that Reuters needed competition, and that he was the man to provide it. Now Bloomberg is a global multimedia financial information services company with more than 90 bureaux around the world. Bloomberg, 62, is estimated to be worth Dollars 5bn.

What he's doing with it: The famously brash and assertive Bloomberg spotted his opportunity to become a public figure when the former mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, came to the end of his term in 2001. Although Bloomberg was a lifelong Democrat, he switched sides to win the Republican nomination. In the subsequent election campaign he spent more than Dollars 70m of his own money - or about Dollars 100 a vote - to secure victory. He has been an active donor to the arts and charitable causes, and has made a Dollars 100m donation to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University. His bold ban on smoking in public places has changed the atmosphere of New York City forever - and cities around the world are now doing the same.

What he says: "There are days when you wake up and you read the newspapers and you want to shoot yourself. I'm always fascinated to find out where I was yesterday and what I said."

What they say about him: "Michael Bloomberg is the most creative media entrepreneur of our time and, with Bill Gates, perhaps the most successful." - Rupert Murdoch

9. Ted Turner

How he made it: He reinvented television news - and reshaped all news media - with the launch of Cable News Network (CNN) in 1980. Regarded as a joke for a time, its ground-breaking moment came during the Gulf War in 1991. He merged his media business with Time Warner in 1996 and remains the biggest individual shareholder, although he has sold 90 million shares in the past two years. He turns 66 this month, and is now valued at (only) Dollars 1.9bn, having been hit by the slump in Time Warner stock.

What he's doing with it: Relaunched American philanthropy in 1997 when he pledged to give Dollars 1bn over 10 years to the United Nations. While he still has to make good the pledge - he has paid about half that figure, and his depleted wealth doesn't make this any easier - his commitment to his favourite causes remains intact. Last year he headed debates under the auspices of his Nuclear Threat Initiative foundation on the danger of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. He has been a loud critic of the war in Iraq. Turner is a passionate conservationist, and is still America's largest private landowner. He was the last amateur yachtsman to win the America's Cup, and was once married to Jane Fonda.

What he says: "I'd say the chances are about 50-50 that humanity will be extinct or nearly extinct within 50 years. Weapons of mass destruction, disease, I mean this global warming is scaring the living daylights out of me."

What they say about him: The Murdoch-owned tabloid, The New York Post, commenting on Turner's remark that Murdoch uses his media like "the late Fuhrer", wondered whether he was either "veering dangerously toward insanity" or had "come off the medication he takes to fight his manic depression"

10. Jeff Bezos

How he made it: With Amazon, Bezos was one of the first dotcom entrepreneurs to show you could have a successful global internet retail business. He floated the company in 1997, and continues to lead the books and entertainment empire with his trademark enthusiasm. At 40, Bezos is worth Dollars 4.3bn.

What he's doing with it: Bezos is the great dotcom survivor. While Amazon may now be taken for granted, its continued success reinforces the status of the web among consumers. Bezos's chief interest away from the day job is his large investment in space travel via his "Blue Origin" initiative. Launched in 2002, it is "developing vehicles and technologies that, over time, will help enable an enduring human presence in space", according to the company. "Space was his passion," a high school friend told Fortune magazine recently. "Amazon was a means for making money, but I don't think it's ultimately satisfying enough for him. He definitely felt that the future of humanity was beyond Earth."

What he says: "We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It's our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better."

What they say about him: "(He has a) brand of anti-charismatic charisma, which would have mortified a Great Man of a century ago, but seemed just right for our nerd-driven meritocracy." - James Marcus in his book Amazonia

11. Azim Premji

How he made it: The chairman of Wipro, India's largest technology company by market capitalisation, owns 84 per cent of what was once his father's business. Under Premji, 59, what was an edible oils company moved into high tech, seizing on the gap in the Indian market after IBM was kicked out by the government in 1977. Some call him the "Indian Bill Gates". His total net worth is Dollars 6.7bn.

What he's doing with it: The rise of Indian IT services - in software and call centres - is personified by Wipro and its softly spoken chairman. If the anti-off-shoring protesters wanted to find a bogeyman in him they would have to look elsewhere. Premji is modest and reticent, not a belligerent business leader. But he is evangelical about his country's potential, and wary of emerging competition from China. The comparisons with Bill Gates don't end at software: Premji's charitable foundation works with Gates's. Premji's does more work on education in poor rural areas, giving Dollars 5m a year, while Gates has made health a priority. But by winning in the global IT market Premji has done much to change the structure of international business and ultimately affect people's lives.

What he says: "A girl born in Japan today may have a 50 per cent chance of seeing the 22nd century - while a newborn in Afghanistan has a one-in-four chance of dying before age five."

What they say about him: "He does business straight, eyeball to eyeball." - Jack Welch, former chief executive of GE

12. Oprah Winfrey

How she made it: From humble origins, Winfrey burst into national consciousness when her eponymous TV show was launched in 1986. It is now broadcast in more than 100 countries, pulling in 30 million viewers a week in the US alone. Her contract to present the show has just been extended to 2011. Now aged 50, she is worth Dollars 1.3bn.

What she's doing with it: In the age of therapy, self-help and emotional incontinence, Oprah reigns supreme. Her TV programme has invented a new form of public discourse, heavily dependent on the first person pronoun, and has had many imitators around the world. But Winfrey is also a positive role model of black and female empowerment. She is very much in charge, not just of her TV studio, but of her publishing empire ("O" magazine and spin-offs) and her book club, which shifts titles in a way that no one else has ever managed. When Winfrey recommended Tolstoy's Anna Karenina to her followers, the book went straight to the top of The New York Times bestseller list. Few educationalists could claim such power. Winfrey changes the way America thinks. She provides a handy reading list too.

What she says: "Everybody, with the exception of my best friend, told me it wouldn't work. They said I was black, female and overweight." - (On her 1984 debut as a morning show host in Chicago)

What they say about her: "I would take a bullet for her." - Mary Kay Clinton, producer, The Oprah Winfrey Show

13. Richard Mellon Scaife

How he made it: Scaife is the great-grandson of Richard Beatty Mellon, who founded T. Mellon & Sons (the forerunner of Mellon Bank). Aged 72, his inherited wealth amounts to Dollars 1.2bn.

What he's doing with it: When Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke of the "vast rightwing conspiracy" that was out to do her and her husband down, she almost certainly had Scaife in mind. By supporting The American Spectator magazine's "Arkansas project" - the attempt to find corruption and sleaze in Clinton's past - he influenced the course of the presidency. He helped find the ammunition fired off by prosecutor Kenneth Starr and gave conservatives new impetus. But this was not Scaife's first entry into partisan politics. He had already funded both the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, two influential conservative think-tanks in Washington DC. He had been the second-largest donor to the Nixon-Agnew campaign in 1972, giving Dollars 1m. And President Reagan was to appoint many veterans of Scaife-funded think-tanks to his administration.

What he says: Very little, publicly. But at a Heritage Foundation event in November 1994, Scaife said: "I think maybe Hillary and company have it figured out right. They wouldn't be happy here."

What they say about him: "His money laid the basis for modern conservatism." - Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House

14. Ingvar Kamprad

How he made it: The 78-year-old Swede founded Ikea in 1943. The company now has 186 stores in 31 countries. Kamprad lives in tax exile in Switzerland, and is valued at Dollars 18.5bn by Forbes - although a Swedish journal, Veckans Affarer, says he is richer than Bill Gates.

What he's doing with it: The Kamprad vision of simplicity, affordability and utility is changing the world - or at least its living rooms. He invented a business model that keeps costs and prices extraordinarily low (and margins high), and leads his company as a kind of benign cult. His company has a universal, egalitarian appeal that almost no other business can claim. Few homes in the developed world are Ikea-free zones.

What he says: "Happiness is not reaching your goal. Happiness is being on the way. It is our wonderful fate to be just at the beginning. The word impossible has been and must be deleted from our dictionary."

What they say about Ikea: "People say, well, surely they've raised the standard of design in dull British homes. But I think they've reduced acceptable standards at the other end... It may be better than the worst, but it's worse than the best." - Joe Kerr, Royal College of Art, London

15. Michael Dell

How he made it: Dell started selling computers 20 years ago while still a student. Four years later Dell Computer was floated. Today, still only 39, he has handed over the CEO role to Kevin Rollins (Dell remains chairman), and is worth Dollars 14.2bn.

What he's doing with it: Dell re-invented the supply chain, turning it into a demand chain. Making computers to order made him faster and leaner than his competitors, keeping inventory low and responsiveness and flexibility high. Offering quality PCs that almost anyone can afford has revolutionised the world. Dell has been called "the Henry Ford of personal computing". His Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, launched in 1999 with a gift of Dollars 115m in shares, works with other organisations to help children, mostly in Texas.

What he says: "There are a lot of things that go into creating success. I don't like to do just the things I like to do. I like to do things that cause the company to succeed."

What they say about him: "Dell's business model made all others in the industry obsolete." - Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, business authors

16. Warren Buffett

How he made it: Long-term investment in businesses he understands and admires has made Warren Buffett the world's second-richest man, with estimated wealth of Dollars 41bn. His investment company Berkshire Hathaway, which he has been running for 39 years, is now capitalised at Dollars 133bn. During his time at the helm the company has delivered a compound annual return of 24 per cent.

What he's doing with it: The annual pronouncements by the "Sage of Omaha" draw thousands of visitors to his Nebraska home, for what some have called "the Woodstock of the investment world". Buffett is perhaps the most important shareholder activist on the planet. He rejects jargon, gimmicks and hype. He prefers straight talk and straightforward corporate behaviour. CEOs, for example, will be respected and believed, he says, "only when they deserve to be". In this election year he has also made plain his distaste for President Bush's tax cuts. Fuelled by Cherry Coke (he has a Dollars 10bn stake in Coca-Cola) and T-bone steaks, the 74-year-old remains immensely influential in the world's financial markets. Buffett says that when he dies, all his stock will pass to a foundation.

What he says: "There's no reason why future generations of Buffetts should command society just because they came from the right womb. Where's the justice in that?"

What they say about him: "There is a very small handful of people who command almost a transcendent respect, not only for their views but for their objectivity and integrity: one would be (Federal Reserve chairman) Alan Greenspan; another would be Warren Buffett... " - Peter Peterson, former US commerce secretary

17. Li Ka-shing

How he made it: The 76-year-old Li is the richest businessman in Asia with an estimated net worth of Dollars 12.4bn. His Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong conglomerates include telecoms, real estate, electricity and retailing businesses. Li's deal-making acumen is revered, but even he could not avoid getting burned when over- paying for 3G mobile licences.

What he's doing with it: The Li Ka Shing Foundation was set up in 1980 to channel financial support to medical, educational and cultural charities. Li came from a modest background, and describes his charitable activities as his "life's work". More important, he has been a weathervane of economic confidence since Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997: supporting political protest at one moment, then being positive about the new regime at others. Cynics say his activism fluctuates according to the health of his business, and indeed his recent attempted spin-offs of telecom assets have not gone smoothly. But if Li ever turned his back on investing in Hong Kong - as he has occasionally threatened to do - it would be a serious blow.

What he says: "At least now in Hong Kong you can criticise whatever you like. But, of course, if people do not agree with you, they do not have to... My personal opinion is that Hong Kong people enjoy more freedom, as well as freedom of speech, than they did before 1997."

What they call him: "Superman" and "the shadow governor"

18. Paul Allen

How he made it: He co-founded Microsoft in April 1975 with his childhood friend Bill Gates, but left day-to-day running of the company in 1983 when diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. He has gradually reduced his stake ever since, but he still is, with a net worth of Dollars 20bn, the third-richest man in America. He is 51.

What he's doing with it: Allen indulges all his interests while making serious interventions in significant areas. He has become a huge supporter of (and investor in) biotechnology, and has already spent Dollars 250m on developing an area of Seattle into a dedicated hub community for biotech research (dubbed "Allentown"). The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has supported educational, artistic and other scientific ventures. He helped build the Experience Music Project, a Dollars 240m rock 'n' roll museum in Seattle, and a science fiction museum. Allen backed SpaceShipOne, the first private rocket to reach space, with Dollars 20m. He gave Dollars 250,000 to the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians to help bridge the "digital divide", and money for research into how virtual-reality technology might distract burns victims from their pain. He owns the world's largest private yacht, the 413ft Octopus.

What he says: "If people remembered me as someone who had fun working with people to develop new technologies, who tried to do positive things for the community, I would be satisfied."

What they say about him: "A lot of (Allen's 1990s investments) were ahead of their time... He was brilliant, naive, and too early." - Bill Gates

19. Stephan Schmidheiny

How he made it: The 57-year-old is the fourth-generation heir to a Swiss-German family fortune. His share is valued at Dollars 2.6bn. He has removed himself from all formal company positions to concentrate on his philanthropic work.

What he's doing with it: Schmidheiny refers to his activities as "venture philanthropy". He can claim to be one of the original movers in the debate on sustainable development. His 1992 pamphlet Changing Course was written in conjunction with his World Business Council for Sustainable Development in preparation for the UN Rio summit. It argued that eco-efficiency and sustainable development are good for business. He believes his kind of capitalist activism will help define a new form of socially responsible business behaviour.

What he says: "Environmental thinking is bringing a new industrial revolution... Sustainable development is a business issue that needs to be made a reality in each line function in every business."

What they say about him: "He has a long-term vision - the introduction of more equitable principles, and equitable social concepts. And I think one has to commend him for it. That's where the leadership's come from." - Warren Lindner, environmental champion

20. Pierre Omidyar

How he made it: He launched eBay, the online marketplace, in 1995. The world's most successful internet business, it is now valued at more than Dollars 60bn, and Omidyar himself, aged only 37, is worth Dollars 10.4bn. He has said he will use his entire fortune to "do good".

What he's doing with it: If you buy into the ethos that he espouses at eBay, Omidyar seems to have reaped the rewards of his virtuous and trusting approach. The company is founded on a few basic principles, he says. He believes that people are basically good, that everyone has something to contribute, and that an honest and open environment can bring out the best in people. He urges people to "do as they would be done by". He certainly identified the internet's unique qualities and built a dominant business on it. His Omidyar Foundation, run with wife Pam, backs both non-profit and for-profit companies. It offers micro-loans to small businesses in developing economies, and champions open-source software.

What he says: "We didn't do moderately wealthy. We went straight to ridiculous."

What they say about him: "(His philosophy) has always remained that the individual is the centre of social change. When the individual discovers their own power, their role in making good things happen as individuals and collectively as communities - that is how social change occurs." - Iqbal Paroo, chief executive of the Omidyar Foundation

21. Thaksin Shinawatra

How he made it: Thaksin began work as a police officer but after a master's degree in criminal justice in the US he returned to Thailand and, having devised a plan for the introduction of IT to the national police force, went full-time into business, specialising in the telecoms sector. His Shinawatra Computer and Communications group was listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in 1990. Aged 55, he is said to be worth Dollars 1.4bn.

What he's doing with it: Thaksin founded the "Thai Rak Thai" (Thais love Thais) party in 1998, and in 2001 was elected prime minister in a landslide victory. He was seen as a strong and businesslike man who could rescue the country in the wake of the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, and became known as "Asia's Berlusconi". His popularity has suffered after a series of crises: the initially covered-up bird flu, and unrest in the Muslim south, where dozens of protesters have been killed. Earlier this year he tried (but failed) to buy a stake in Liverpool Football Club.

What he says: "Democracy is the means to an end, not the end itself."

What they say about him: "Thaksin has created a culture of top- down, absolutist rule. Middle-ranking officials, even senior officials, do not dare voice contrary opinions. Nobody is willing to tell him the bad news." - Thittinan Pongsudhirak, political economist at Chulalongkorn University

22. Rafiq Hariri

How he made it: After a humble start in the southern Lebanese town of Sidon, Hariri began a career in construction in Saudi Arabia, where he started his own business, Saudi Oger, working for the future King Fahd. He now has huge property interests all around the world. Aged 60, his wealth is estimated at Dollars 4.3bn.

What he's doing with it: Last month Hariri resigned as prime minister of Lebanon, the second time he has been forced from office. It was the latest stage in a career that began in 1992 when he returned to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia to become prime minister after 15 years of civil war (he was a key peace negotiator). Drawing on his international contacts, Hariri began the renaissance of Beirut. But his relationship with President Emile Lahoud, who is under strong Syrian influence, was tense. Hariri favoured minimalist, technocratic government, but the president was opposed. In his quest to drag Lebanon into the 20th century, let alone the 21st, Hariri built a parallel administration to the one set up under the postwar power sharing arrangement between the main sects. He also tried to tackle the endemic corruption. It was no easy task: he once fired 500 public employees for corruption, but they appealed and, one-by-one, were taken back. He, too, may well be back to try again.

What he says: "Monsieur Liban - c'est moi!"

What they say about him: "We spent two years bogged down in bureaucracy and facing political obstacles at every turn... When Hariri came back, he got everyone together and sorted out all the problems in one meeting." - leading Gulf businessman, speaking to the Middle East Economic Digest

23. Carlos Slim Helu

How he made it: The richest man in Latin America secured his fortune by acquiring control of the state telephone company, Telmex, when it was privatised in 1990. Along with his telecoms interests, his retail and financial companies account for half the value of Mexico's stock market. Aged 64, he is worth Dollars 13.9bn.

What he's doing with it: Although Slim, as he's known, recently stepped down from day-to-day management of Telmex, handing the reins to his three sons, he remains the true power behind the scenes. Active in social, political and economic areas, he plans to get more deeply involved in his charity organisations Fundacion Telmex and Fundacion Carso. These award scholarships, fund surgery and provide free legal representation. In Mexico City, Slim is leading a business partnership that is helping to restore crumbling historic buildings. Cynics see this as a play for some valuable real estate. One thing is clear - Mexico (and most of Latin America) will remain under the influence of the Slims for many years to come.

What he says: (when asked if he is a monopolist) "What would that be like, a 'Slim World?' That would be nice."

What they say about him: "Carlos Slim Helu represents everything that is good and everything that is bad about doing business in Mexico. He is the epitome of entrepreneurship and at the same time the epitome of a monopolist who doesn't tolerate anything but managed competition." - anonymous former US telecommunications industry executive

24. Charles and David Koch

How they made it: The Koch brothers (Charles is 69, David 65) control Koch Industries, the private oil and industrial giant they inherited from their father. Each has a 40 per cent stake valued at about Dollars 4bn.

What they're doing with it: The Koch brothers have been among the most significant supporters of conservative thought in the US in the past two decades. Charles helped found the Cato Institute in 1977, while David sits on its board today. While their donations to other think-tanks and causes have been in the tens rather than hundreds of millions, the Koch brothers have provided crucial encouragement for the libertarian right.

What they say: "My overall concept is to minimise the role of government and to maximise the role of the private economy to maximise personal freedoms." - David Koch

What people say about them: "It's astounding that so few people have ever heard of a family this rich and powerful and aggressive when it comes to policy and politics." - Jeff Krehely, deputy director of the national committee for responsive philanthropy

25. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal

How he made it: A nephew of King Fahd, Prince Alwaleed, 47, is emerging on the political scene in Saudi Arabia while continuing to lead his investment company, Kingdom Holding. His stake in Citigroup, bought in 1991, is now worth Dollars 10bn alone. He is estimated to be the fourth-richest man in the world with a net worth of Dollars 21.5bn.

What he's doing with it: The Prince is speaking up and speaking out, criticising the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil company, and troubling conservative-minded members of the ruling family. His is the nearest thing to a pro-western, progressive Arab voice in the Middle East. He offered a Dollars 10m payment to New York City after September 11, which the then mayor Rudolph Giuliani turned down, but paid a similar sum to the American University in Cairo to support cross-cultural American-Arab studies.

What he says: "I am in a unique position. I am a Saudi. I am royal family. I am... entrenched in my society. I am the biggest single contributor to Palestinian social causes and, at the same time, I am the largest single international investor in New York. Definitely there is a responsibility, and my duty is to try to bridge the gaps."

What others say about him: "(He) has a pretty sophisticated understanding of capitalism." - Michael Eisner, Walt Disney chief executive


John Kay, economist, author and FT columnist

Richard Lambert, former editor of the FT and member of the

Bank of England monetary policy committee

Geoffrey Owen, former editor of the FT and senior fellow at the London School of Economics

Martin Wolf, the FT's chief economics commentator