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Fumbled Fortunes: Meet The Ex-Billionaires Who Lost Their Riches

Fumbled Fortunes: Meet The Ex-Billionaires Who Lost Their Riches

Eike Batista was the world’s seventh-richest man in 2012, worth an estimated $30 billion and proclaiming to be on his way to becoming the world’s richest. Instead he lost nearly all of it in just two years. Batista and the 99 others who dropped off our billionaires list this year are proof that even the most successful businessmen can make spectacularly bad bets.

Batista, now worth less than $300 million, had his money on Brazilian natural resource companies that eventually tanked. His net worth dropped to $10.6 billion in March 2013, making him the 100th richest person in the world. Much of the rest of his fortune disappeared over the past year. His oil company OGX declared bankruptcy in October in the largest corporate default in Latin American history. Massive debt payments sucked up his cash as his stock in OGX and other publicly traded companies plummeted.

In the United States, most oil tycoons raked in dough thanks to the fracking boom. But one Texas oil legend, T. Boone Pickens, lost an estimated $300 million in a more progressive way.
“I’m in the wind business,” he told interviewers on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program. “I’ve lost my ass in the business.”

As fracking created cheap natural gas and subsidies for green energy began to wane, Pickens’ project to develop a massive wind farm in the Texas Panhandle hit the fan. He is now worth an estimated $900 million.

Manoj Bhargava made his fortune from a different kind of alternative energy, but the power of his 5-Hour Energy shot is fading. As his company faces complaints that its product is unsafe and its advertisements stretch the truth, analysts say sales of 5-Hour Energy have stalled.  His estimated net worth dropped from $1.5 billion in March 2013 to $800 million. Bhargava is starting to get that 2:30 feeling.

American billionaires fared better overall than their overseas counterparts. Asia had the most drop-offs with 47. The Middle East and Africa was second with 20, nearly all in Turkey.

Norway’s Olav Thon is the rare billionaire who is happy to be off list. Once the richest man in Norway, the hotel mogul gave almost all of his money away in 2013. He donated full ownership of his real estate empire, Olav Thon Group, which we valued at $6 billion last year, to his charitable foundation. Thon still controls the company through his foundation, but the profits will now go toward promoting math, science and entrepreneurship.

With $250 million left in the bank, the 90-year old Thon will be just fine, thanks.

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