Gates back on top of the world

Sunday Times mi$calculation

Last week, the Sunday Times Rich List claimed that Wal-Mart Chairman Robson Walton had surpassed Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates as the most obscenely wealthy person in the known universe, but appears to have neglected to carry a two or somehow misplaced a decimal point in its calculations.

Indeed, the Times overestimated Walton's fortune by a stunning $48 billion, Forbes Magazine reckons. The "1.7 billion Wal-Mart shares owned collectively by founder Sam Walton's widow and their four children are in fact split evenly amongst the five of them. With a total value of nearly $87 billion, that leaves them each only $17 billion," the magazine says.

"To be fair, the Times does bury an explanation -- 'denotes family wealth' -- at the bottom of a table that accompanies the article. But that's simply no excuse for its inflammatory, and incorrect, headline: 'Gates Ousted as World's Wealthiest Man,'" Forbes observes.

Fair enough; but after a certain point of extravagance, does it really matter who's got more or less? Can a guy worth $50 billion eat tastier food, travel in greater luxury, achieve a firmer erection, buy more legislators, send his kids to better schools, than one worth $5 billion?

Think about it. ®

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