People & Power

Record number of women make 28th annual Forbes billionaires list

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By The Guardian

Posted  Thursday, March 6   2014 at  19:32
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From the Facebook executive who told women to “lean in” to get ahead at work, to a Nigerian oil tycoon and a British online gambling entrepreneur, a record number of women have entered the global club of billionaires.

A total of 172 women, up 25 per cent on 2013, have made Forbes’ 28th annual billionaires’ list. Women now make up 10 per cent of the global super-rich.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, with a personal fortune worth more than $1bn, becomes one of the highest-profile new entrants to the Forbes list, joining Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard as the only other female tech billionaire.

Nigeria’s first female billionaire, businesswoman Folorunsho Alakija, is also making her Forbes debut. Born into a wealthy family, she studied fashion in London before going into the oil business in 1993. Her stake in Famfa Oil provides the bulk of her $2.5bn fortune.

According to Forbes, a record number of 42 women broke into the list for the first time, although only 32 female billionaires (1.9 per cent of the total) built their own fortune, rather than inheriting it from a parent or husband.

The world’s richest woman is Christy Walton, who shares a $36.7bn chunk of the Walmart fortune, edging out one of L’Oréal’s principal shareholders, Liliane Bettencourt.

One of the top UK entrants is Denise Coates, the British online gambling queen who, along with her brother, owns Bet365. Coates was at school when she started working as a cashier in her father’s betting shops and has amassed $1.6bn in personal wealth.

Fiercely private, she has escaped almost all press attention in the UK despite Bet365 taking almost £20bn in bets and making £150m in profits in the year to March 2013.

In a rare interview two years ago, Coates told the Guardian how she has, on occasion, had to correct some people who had assumed that her father, a well-known businessman, ran the company.

Her business, which employs 2,500 workers, mostly in Stoke-on-Trent, made a £150m profit last year, even after swallowing £31m of losses from Bet365’s controlling interest in Stoke City football club
Coates, who owns half the business, received pay and bonuses of £5.4m, as well as her share of £15m in dividends. Even after these payouts the company had a further £430m in cash reserves on the balance sheet.

In the past five years, Bet365 has paid out dividends totalling £130m.
A total of nine women feature in the top 85 - two having joined since Oxfam analysis in January showed that the world’s richest 85 people have $1 trillion - as much as the poorest half of the world’s 7 billion population.