Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie wasn't able to raise a Super Bowl trophy last season, but he did find a different kind of pay dirt: Forbes' 2009 list of the world's billionaires.

The magazine's much-awaited roster was released yesterday, and Lurie was on it for the first time. He managed that despite a terrible economy that sent some moguls to the ranks of "former billionaires."

Lurie joined 20 other first-timers on the list.

The total number of billionaires fell to 793 from 1,125 - the first time since 2003 that the number of billionaires worldwide has dropped. The total worth of the billionaires was down $1.4 trillion from the previous year.

This year's billionaires have an average net worth of $3 billion, down 23 percent in 12 months.

Even those who have managed to stay billionaires, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway chief executive officer Warren Buffett, suffered huge losses.

"When the stock market falls as much as it has this year, and so many of the billionaires have their wealth tied up in the stock of their company or the markets in general, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the number of billionaires has fallen," said TD Bank N.A. chief economist Joel L. Naroff.

Lurie, the Boston-born heir to a publishing and movie-theater fortune, was regarded as an undistinguished Hollywood producer when he bought the Eagles in 1994 from Norman Braman for $185 million - then a record for any sports franchise.

In September 2008, Forbes estimated the franchise's value at $1.116 billion, seventh-highest in the National Football League.

Lurie's net worth tied him at 701st on this year's list at $1.0 billion.

But advances such as Lurie's were rare in a year of global economic distress.

Ten fortunes dwindled by a combined $238 billion last year - more than the gross domestic product of Ireland, according to Forbes.

The world's richest man, Microsoft's Gates, lost $18 billion in the last year, leaving his net worth at $40 billion.

Buffett, last year's No. 1 billionaire, saw his fortune decline $25 billion as shares of Berkshire Hathaway fell nearly 50 percent in 12 months. Mexican telecom titan Carlos Slim Helu maintained his spot in the top three but lost $25 billion, according to the magazine.

In all, 656 moguls lost money last year.

Among them was gambling titan Sheldon Adelson, 75, considered Las Vegas' richest man, who was ranked No. 178 on this year's list - plummeting from No. 12 last year.

Adelson's fortune dropped $22 billion in the last 12 months to $3.4 billion, as the weakened global economy tanked, and with it, consumers' appetites to gamble in his palaces in Las Vegas and Macau.

Shares of Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. have fallen more than 95 percent in a year. He injected $1 billion of his own cash into the company to help make a debt payment last fall. Construction of billion-dollar casinos in Macau has been suspended, and nearly 11,000 workers were laid off last November in China.

Still, the college dropout and son of a Boston cabdriver is not shrinking from taking chances. His next project - the $743 million Sands Bethlehem Casino near Allentown - debuts in May.

Other people with ties to the Philadelphia region on this year's list: Leonore Annenberg; Blackstone Group's cofounder Stephen Schwarzman, a native of Montgomery County; and Mary Alice Dorrance Malone, of Coatesville, whose grandfather founded Campbell Soup Co.

Annenberg and Malone moved up in this year's rankings, to No. 430 and No. 318, respectively, while Schwarzman dropped to 261 from 145 last year.

The Billionaires' Club Top Ten

                Net worth     Source              Country of

Name           in billions     of wealth           citizenship

Bill Gates        $40 Microsoft             U.S.

Warren Buffett       37 Berkshire Hathaway       U.S.

Carlos Slim Helu    35 Telecommunications    Mexico

Larry Ellison          22.5 Oracle             U.S.

Ingvar Kamprad       22 Ikea        Sweden

Karl Albrecht       21.5 Aldi supermarkets Germany

Mukesh Ambani       19.5 Petrochemicals     India

Lakshmi Mittal       19.3 Steel     India

Theo Albrecht       19.3 Aldi, Trader Joe's Germany

Amancia Ortega       18.3 Zara clothing        Spain

SOURCE: Forbes magazine

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