Friday, March 15, 2013

German Billionaires: Data Reconciliation

We  looked at the billionaire's lists available from Forbes and MM (Manager Magazin behind paywall, the 2010 list is available in Wikipedia) and compared the entries. To convert the numbers in Manager Magazin we used a exchange rate of EURUSD = 1.30.

Most strikingly the Forbes list is much smaller (55 entries with a total of USD 251.3 billion) than the MM list (156 entries with a total of 482.4 billion)

The differences in more detail are as follows:

  • Five entries with a total wealth of USD 12.1 billion (according to Forbes) are not recorded in the MM billionaire list:
    • Three entries (Schoeller, von Opel, Thurn und Taxis) appear in MM but significantly below the USD 1 billion threshold
    • Ludwig Merckle is recorded with with USD 5.3 billion in Forbes, while there is significant valuation uncertainty after the near collapse of the group in 2008/2009, the group has successfully deleveraged und is probably worth above USD 1 billion
    • Finally Vladimir Iorich (according to Forbes Russian born, German nationality and Swiss residence) is neither recorded by MM nor by the Bilanz list of billionaires resident in Switzerland)
  • The Herz family is recorded with five entries in Forbes (Michael, Wolfgang, Günter, Daniela, Ingeburg), while MM only has the two family entries (one for Günter and Daniela and another one for Ingeburg and her children)
  • 109 entries with a total wealth of USD 248.6 billion (according to MM) are not recorded in the Forbes list:
  • Finally 47 names are recorded on both lists (Forbes and MM) with a total wealth of USD 233.8 billion according to MM and USD 239.2 billion according to Forbes. Despite total wealth for these entries matching nicely, for individual records the differences are more significant as shown in the graph below:

Obviously putting together billionaire lists is a difficult tasks especially when it comes to valuation of private companies. Nevertheless the overall differences are quite striking. When German billionaires are recorded at 156 instead of 55, the number of German billionaires exceeds those of China or Russia and its per capita number increases from 6.4 to 18.3 (exceeding the US level of 13.2) billionaires per 10 million population.

In a future post we will look the billionaires resident in Switzerland, where Bilanz has 131 entries (USDCHF exchange rate 0.95) compared to Forbes with only nine entries. Obviously one major source of differences for this list can be easily explained in terms of Forbes' nationality criteria versus Bilanz residency criteria.


  1. You may also want to add Horst Paulmann with $9.3B net worth (, who has German-Chilean dual nationality.

  2. It would also be interesting to see a comparison with the Sunday Times list.

  3. I'm not surprised to see this. In Germany the wealthy tend to keep their wealth under the radar, just for cultural reasons. They also invest in a lot of alternative assets like these.

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