Nintendo owner drops on richest list

Youngest self-made billionaire comes from Japan

TOKYO -- The Forbes list of Japan’s 40 richest people shows a further drop for Nintendo’s Hiroshi Yamauchi, and the emergence of Yoshitaka Tanaka, a social mobile gaming entrepreneur and Asia’s youngest self-made billionaire.

Yamauchi, who transformed Nintendo from a regional producer of traditional Japanese board and gambling games to a global computer game giant during his 55-year tenure, dropped to seventh place as sales of the Wii and software fell last year.

The 82-year-old former president -- worth $3.8 billion -- owns around 10% of Nintendo’s stock, which has dropped from the giddy heights which had propelled him to the summit of the rich list as recently as 2006, when his fortune was valued at $7.9 billion. He retired in 2005.

At 32-years-old Yoshitaka Tanaka is a full half-century younger than Yamauchi, and doubled his fortune last year to $1.6 billion, through the 51% he holds of his social networking and gaming site, Gree.

Although Gree is second to market leader Mixi in subscribers -- Facebook has yet to make serious inroads – most of its users are mobile and willing to pay hard cash for “goods” and services in the virtual worlds that 15 million of them play in.

Gree, the name comes from “six de-gree-s of separation,” has made Tanaka the 18th richest person in Japan and the youngest Asian billionaire entrepreneur.

“The nation which is graying fastest in Asia, and the world, has ended up producing the region’s youngest self-made billionaire,” said Tim Kelly, list-compiler and Forbes Tokyo bureau chief.

The only other person under 35-years-old on the list is Kenji Kasahara, founder of rival Mixi, at number 33.

Boss of budget clothes retailer Uniqlo, Tadashi Yanai, was again Japan’s wealthiest individual, growing his fortune by $3.1 billion to $9.2 billion. The combined wealth of Japan’s 40 richest people grew 20% to $87 billion as the stock market rebounded in 2009.
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