Billionaire Wishes He Was Billionaire-er


Of the 1,426 billionaires on our list, not one–not even the vainglorious Donald Trump–goes to greater measure to try to affect his or her ranking. In 2006 when Forbes estimated that the prince was actually worth $7 billion less than he said he was, he called me at home the day after the list was released, sounding nearly in tears. “What do you want?” he pleaded, offering up his private banker in Switzerland. “Tell me what you need.” Several years ago he had Kingdom Holding’s chief financial officer fly from Riyadh to New York a few weeks before the list came out to ensure that FORBES used his stated numbers. The CFO and a companion said they were not to leave the editor’s office until that commitment was secured. (After a granular discussion the editor convinced them to leave with a promise to review everything.) In 2008, I spent a week with him in Riyadh, at his behest, touring his palaces and airplanes and observing what he told me was $700 million worth of jewels.

Forbes’s popular billionaires issue is out and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud is number 26 on the list—but he’d really, really like to have a higher ranking. He’s even sent out press releases with Photoshopped covers of himself on Forbes, Vanity Fair, and TIME. Apparently, he has learned that having billions of dollars can buy you a lot of things—except having more money than the billionaires who have more money than you.

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