Crumbling stock markets, weakness in the face of competition and too much debt. Those forces were responsible for knocking a hefty number of tycoons off Forbes’ list of the World’s Billionaires in 2012. This year 129 people departed: 117 saw their fortunes dip below the $1 billion mark and 12 people died. China had the most dropoffs with 36, the United States came in second with 18, and Russia had 16 people depart.
Who suffered the hardest fall? It’s tough to look past Research In Motion‘s duo of Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazardis, who were worth a respective $1.8 billion and $1.9 billion in March 2011. Those fortunes eroded over the past year as the iPhone and Android gobbled up BlackBerry’s market share.
At a press conference in February, Meike Schlecker, the daughter of German drugstore kingpin Anton Schlecker –worth $3.1 billion in March 2011–told those gathered that her family’s fortune was no longer. “There is nothing left, ” she was reported as saying. The company has announced it will close thousands of its stores in the face of debt woes.
Bad business is not always to blame, as is the case with Harry Potter scribe J.K. Rowling. New intel on her generous charitable giving –and the high taxes she pays — pushed Rowling below the $1 billion mark. But her forthcoming novel aimed at adult audiences could help her get back on the list.
Then there are the billionaires who passed away, the highest profile of whom was Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who died of pancreatic cancer in October. His widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, joins the list, having inherited her late husband’s fortune. Two other notable deaths were those of leveraged-buyout pioneer Ted Forstmann, who died of brain cancer in November, and Kuwait’s richest man, Nasser Al-Kharafi, who died of a heart attack in April.