The world's most exclusive club

Gina Rinehart's personal wealth exceeds the GDP of many small countries.
Gina Rinehart's personal wealth exceeds the GDP of many small countries. Photo: Bloomberg

It's the world's most exclusive, most powerful club and the price of admission is steep - $US12.7 billion ($14.42 billion) to be precise.

It has 85 members, who between them control assets totalling $US1.7 trillion - the same amount, according to a new Oxfam report, as that shared by the 3.5 billion people who make up the bottom half of the world's population.

The combined wealth of the 85 is believed to be greater than Australia's entire GDP, which was listed at $US1.56 trillion by the United Nations in 2012.

In the club: Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
In the club: Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. 

The singular wealth of American tech pioneer Bill Gates, who with $US77.1 billion is listed by Bloomberg as the world's richest man, exceeds the GDP of one of the US's nearest neighbours, Cuba.

The Microsoft co-founder is one of 34 US citizens among the world's top 85 billionaires, with his compatriots also taking seven spots in the top 10 on Bloomberg's rich list.

However, both Gates and fellow American rich-lister Warren Buffett (No.4 with $US58.9 billion) are also noted for their philanthropy, donating many millions each year to charitable causes.

The financial divide. <i> Illustration: Frank Maiorana</i>
The financial divide. Illustration: Frank Maiorana 

Other notable names hovering near the top of the world's most luxurious totem pole include Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim (No.2, $US69.6 billion), Spanish co-founder of the Zara fashion chain Amancio Ortega (No.3, $US64.8 billion), Swedish Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad (No.5, $US52.8 billion) and American co-founder of Oracle Larry Ellison (No.8, $US43.9 billion).

Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg are ranked the world's 17th and 26th richest individuals respectively.

Russia adds 10 of its citizens to the top 85, led by 37th-ranked investor Alisher Usmanov ($US19.8 billion). Germany and India each contribute five, and France and Hong Kong add four.

Only one Australian is a member of the “85 club” – Gina Rinehart's wealth is estimated at $US15.2 billion, ranking her the world's 61st richest person.

Her personal fortune is estimated to exceed the GDP of 78 countries including Jamaica, North Korea and Iceland.

She is ranked the world's eighth-richest woman, with a total of 10 females among the world's top 85 billionaires including Laurene Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, at No.82 ($US13 billion).

The Oxfam report also warns the concentration of wealth is actually far greater than it can list, estimating that $US18.5 trillion – a figure greater than the GDP of the world's richest country, the US – sits unrecorded and hidden in offshore tax havens.