Bill Gates became the world’s richest person today, the first time he has held the title since 2007. His fortune was valued at $72.7 billion at 4 p.m. in New York, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Gates, 57, was more than $550 million ahead of Carlos Slim, who has a $72.1 billion net worth. The co-founder of Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has seen his fortune climb about $10 billion this year. The software maker’s shares hit a five-year high today, and have advanced 28 percent year-to-date.
Slim’s fortune has dropped more than $2 billion this year as Mexico’s Congress passed a bill to quash the market dominance of the 73-year-old billionaire’s America Movil SAB.
“When they’re talking about reform in a country that’s generally poor, and the guy shows up No. 1 on the list — not a good thing,” said Greg Lesko, managing director at New York-based Deltec Asset Management LLC, which oversees $750 million and has an “underweight” position in Slim’s flagship company. “He’s had a pretty good monopoly situation in Mexico, and the Mexican cellphone user has been paying more than he should. We applaud it for the country.”
Earlier this month, a group of kazoo-playing protesters confronted Slim when he appeared at an event at the New York Public Library, denouncing him for overcharging consumers to enrich himself. He denies the accusation.
The bill passed by Mexico’s Congress last month, which is backed by President Enrique Pena Nieto and is now before state legislatures, would allow regulators to break up phone companies with more than 50 percent of the market or force them to share their networks. America Movil (AMXL) has 70 percent of Mexico’s mobile-phone subscribers and 80 percent of the country’s landlines.
Gates’s fortune has also benefited from a rally in stock holdings that include the Canadian National Railway Co. and waste-collection company Republic Services Inc (RSG).
Most of Gates’s fortune is held through Cascade Investment LLC, a holding entity through which he owns stakes in more than a dozen publicly traded companies and several closely held operations, including Four Seasons hotels and Corbis Corp. Less than a quarter of Gates’s fortune is held in Microsoft. He’s donated $28 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bridgitt Arnold, a spokeswoman for Gates, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Arturo Elias, Slim’s spokesman, didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages.