Who Are the Richest of the Rich?
Sitting at a table, grinding his pinkie into the corner of his mouth and staring at the screen, Dr. Evil announces he is holding the world ransom for $1 million. Having been cryogenically frozen for 30 years, the comic villain created by the actor Mike Myers is shocked when he is told that $1 million isn’t a lot of money in 1997.
邪恶博士(Dr. Evil)坐在一张桌子旁，一边盯着屏幕，一边把小指头伸向嘴角，宣布他要向这个世界索要100万美元的赎金。这个由演员迈克·迈尔斯(Mike Myers)创造的滑稽反派人物在被低温冷冻了30年之后苏醒过来，当被告知100万美元在1997年不算很多钱时，他感到十分震惊。
Trying to regain his composure, he turns to the screen, voice cracking with uncertainty, and says, “OK then, we hold the world ransom for $100 billion.”
Twenty years after the movie “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” was released, billions of dollars aren’t what they used to be, either.
影片《王牌大间谍》(Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery)已经上映20年，数十亿美元也不像过去那么值钱了。
Bill Gates alone is just $10 billion shy of Dr. Evil’s ransom demand, according to a soon-to-be-released list of the world’s top 10 billionaires by Wealth-X, a financial research firm. Gates, the Microsoft founder, tops the list at $89.3 billion, followed by his friend Warren Buffett at $73.5 billion.
财务研究公司Wealth-X即将发布的世界十大亿万富翁排行榜显示，仅比尔·盖茨(Bill Gates)一个人的财富，距离邪恶博士的要价也就只差100亿美元而已。这位微软创始人以893亿美元位居该榜单首位，紧随其后的是他的朋友、拥有735亿美元财富的沃伦·巴菲特(Warren Buffett)。
The top 10 — nine from the United States, one from Spain — have a combined net worth of $582 billion. While their wealth would certainly be enough to save the world from Dr. Evil, what they do with it in real life is the subject of great interest and debate.
That is true now more than ever. Issues around money — like wealth inequality and talk of tax cuts for the rich — are among the hottest topics of the day. And the richest president in history is sitting in the Oval Office, with billionaires sprinkled throughout his Cabinet.
To some, today’s billionaires are like Dr. Evil: selfish, rapacious and bent on world domination. To others, billionaires are worthy of respect for having put their names and fortunes behind an array of philanthropic endeavors, many aimed at improving the lives of people at the very base of the wealth pyramid.
There were 2,473 billionaires in the world, as of Wealth-X’s last count through 2015. That was a 6.4 percent increase in billionaires from the year before.
But who these billionaires are and what they’re like is more difficult to discern. Many may seem as ordinary as the guy sitting next to you on the train — or in Michael Bloomberg’s case, standing beside you on the subway, when he was mayor of New York. (Bloomberg is No. 9 on Wealth-X’s list.)
There are certainly billionaires who want to save the world, like Gates, Buffett and Bloomberg, who have pledged to give their fortunes away. Others in the top 10 are also philanthropic but are still focusing on their day jobs, like Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Alphabet (the parent of Google) — Nos. 4, 5 and 10.
肯定有盖茨、巴菲特和布隆伯格这样想要拯救世界的亿万富翁，他们承诺捐赠自己的财富。前十位中的其他亿万富翁也参与慈善，不过他们仍然将主要精力放在自己的日常工作上，比如亚马逊(Amazon)的杰夫·贝佐斯(Jeff Bezos)、Facebook的马克·扎克伯格(Mark Zuckerberg)，以及Google母公司字母表公司(Alphabet)的拉里·佩奇(Larry Page)——分别排名第四、第五和第十。
Yet many of the billionaires beyond the top 10 or 20 have a much lower profile. Who outside of finance or hockey knew of Vincent Viola, a former oil trader and current owner of the Florida Panthers, before President Donald Trump nominated him to be secretary of the Army? Now that he has withdrawn, he can return to relative anonymity.
然而，排在前10或前20之外的许多亿万富翁要低调得多。在被唐纳德·特朗普总统提名为陆军部长之前，金融或冰球界之外有谁知道文森特·维奥拉(Vincent Viola)？他之前是一名石油商人，现为佛罗里达美洲豹队(Florida Panthers)的所有人。现在他已经选择退出了，又可以回归相对的默默无闻。
For that matter, Wilbur L. Ross, Trump’s choice for commerce secretary, is the wealthiest of the president’s billionaire cabinet picks. He would pop up in the headlines every few years for a deal he was making but then return to what could be called the quiet opulence of the billionaire class.
说到这一点，被特朗普选中担任商务部长的威尔伯·L·罗斯(Wilbur L. Ross)是总统内阁人选中最富有的亿万富翁。每隔几年，他就会因为正在进行的交易出现在新闻头条中，但接着便回归到富豪阶层的低调奢华状态。
“We know that things are quite different for a billionaire individual or a billionaire family than they are for even a very wealthy ultra-high-net-worth family,” said Belinda Sneddon, national practice executive in the family office group at U.S. Trust.
“我们知道跟其他人——哪怕是特别富有的超高净值家庭——相比，亿万富翁个人或家族的情况是非常不一样的，”美国信托公司(U.S. Trust)家族办公室全国业务主管贝琳达·斯内登(Belinda Sneddon)说。
“They’re different in how they can invest their assets and what their portfolio may look like,” Sneddon said. “In many ways, they face different risks, both personal risks and cyber risks, than the average individual does. They often think about structuring decisions differently from a succession-planning standpoint as well as the structure they create around themselves and their family.”
But billionaires are as different from one another as members of any other economic group. How they amassed their billions, and how that pile is growing, tells a lot about the economy today.
Road to Billions
Just as the best teacher in the country is going to earn less money than a mediocre investment banker, the industries in which future billionaires begin their careers determine the magnitude of their wealth and how quickly it is going to grow.
Six of the top 10 billionaires made their money in technology. But in Wealth-X’s research, technology ranks sixth overall for the number of billionaires on the list, with 114 around the world.
Finance has created the most billionaires, with 377, or 15 percent of the world’s billionaires. It is followed by industrial conglomerates, with 317, or 13 percent.
After that, the concentration in particular industries drops. Real estate is third with 141. The group of people who identify their industry as nonprofits (meaning they made their money some other way or inherited it) is fourth, with 122. Manufacturing, in fifth place, has 120.
“Globalization has been a big trend,” said Benjamin Kinnard, a research analyst at Wealth-X. “The market is now 7 billion people, not just the size of your domestic country.”
He added that finance had a bigger lead in first place several years ago, but it has been losing ground as industries like technology boom.
And while billionaires in the United States are often better known than those elsewhere, there are more billionaires in Europe (although they have less total wealth than their U.S. counterparts).
Asia is gaining ground quickly. Research from UBS calculated that a new billionaire is created every three days in Asia, with 65 percent of the region’s billionaires in China.
While the number of billionaires in China is rising at a fast clip, the pace of growth in billionaires worldwide is slowing. Wealth-X said the number will be 3,250 by 2020, down 16 percent from an earlier prediction of 3,873. This is because economic growth is expected to slow around the world.
And not all billionaires are household names.
Ma Jianrong, executive chairman of Shenzhou International Group Holdings, which is the leading textile company in China and manufactures clothing for Nike, Adidas, Puma and Uniqlo, is worth $4.3 billion.
Kevin Systrom, chief executive of Instagram, is surely well known in Silicon Valley — and among students at Stanford University (his alma mater) who want to emulate his route to a net worth of $1.2 billion by age 33. But he is not as recognizable as Zuckerberg of Facebook.
What is expected of people who have more money than they could spend in several lifetimes? It depends on whom you ask.
A recent report from Oxfam International, the antipoverty charity, argued that eight billionaires had as much wealth as half of the world’s population — or 3.6 billion people — and that that was a travesty.
“It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when one in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day,” Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam, said in a statement. “Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty. It is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.”
Philanthropy has become important to many billionaires, and not just through the Giving Pledge, Buffett’s compact to get the wealthiest to give away at least half of their fortunes. Nor is it confined to the United States, with its tradition of charitable giving.
But there are limits to what even a billionaire can do. Bloomberg, in an interview in 2014, recalled the time he was approached at a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, by a hedge fund manager offering him $1 billion over five years to change public education in New York.
“When I explained to him that New York City’s annual school budget was $22 billion a year,” Bloomberg said, “that was the last time we ever heard from him.”