to Jess and others
you are right, it is very close, and probably has changed since the question was asked 1,677 times before. but look at it this way. Buffet just hired gates to handle his money. when you hire bill gates to be your bookkeeper, you have got to be rich
me, i quit after i got 2.2 mil. what do you need the rest for
remember, a lot of the billionaires "wealth" is just on paper. if Microsoft stock were to drop to only a dollar a share, gates would only be a multi-millionaire. I know, that will never happen. the same with buffet and the oil sheiks. that Carlos slim guy has a lot of tangible assets, but a lot of them are in areas of the world that are unstable, and could be blown up or seized by dictators.
as far as who was ever the richest, that can never be determined, because nobody can agree on what the various rates of inflation were around the world at all the different times through history. Carnegie and Rockefeller were certainly rich in USA terms, as were a lot of the other robber barons who were not so well known and lavish in their lifestyles