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Warren Buffett. (Nati Harnik/Nati Harnik/The Associated Press)
Warren Buffett. (Nati Harnik/Nati Harnik/The Associated Press)

Wealth

Five billionaires who lost millions Add to ...

Few would disagree that it's great to be rich. But common sense also tells us that having an abundance of wealth also means there's a lot more to lose during the pinch of poor economic times. In the recession of the late 2000s, with stock market dips and real estate values plunging, a handful of the world's richest people lost a lot. As you saw your 401(k) and savings accounts lose thousands of dollars, here are five billionaires who lost millions - some even billions - during the recession.

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Sheldon Adelson, Gambling Titan

Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and the company's largest shareholder, has experienced a few tumultuous years of financial highs and lows. In 2007, Forbes ranked Adelson as the third-richest man in America and his net worth was valued at $28-billion (U.S.). At his low in 2009, Adelson's fortune had shrunk to $5.7-billion. However, one year later, in 2010, the American billionaire, whose dynasty includes Las Vegas' The Venetian and Sands Expo and Convention Center, had bounced back to $14.7-billion, making him the 13th-richest man in the U.S.

Robert Johnson, Founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET)

Robert Johnson -- founder of BET -- made history in 2001 when he became the first African-American billionaire after his network was sold to the media giant Viacom. A year later, a costly divorce from his wife and BET co-founder, Sheila, cost him a reported $400-million. Then, in 2009, Johnson had another unfortunate fiscal downturn: he lost $550-million as his stake in Viacom stock plummeted and his investment firm, RLJ Companies, took a hit from its real estate ventures. (To hit the millionaire mark step by step, check out The Millionaire's Retirement Plan.)

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook

Even Facebook prodigy Mark Zuckerberg didn't go unaffected by the financial crisis. In 2008, at the ripe age of 23 and with a net worth of $1.5-billion, Mark Zuckerberg was named the world's youngest billionaire by Forbes. But just a year later, Zuckerberg lost $600-million, forcing him off the prestigious list of business mavens. However, by 2010, Zuckerberg had quickly climbed back up the billionaire ranks. He was valued at $6.9-billion at the end of 2010.

Bill Gates, Founder and CEO of Microsoft

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who held the spot in 2010 as the world's second-wealthiest man with an estimated net worth of $53-billion, saw his fortunes shrink during the Great Recession as technology companies and the stock market nosedives took a toll. From 2008 to 2009, Gates lost $18-billion, as his net worth declined from $58-billion to $40-billion.

Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

Legendary investor Warren Buffett saw his assets nearly cut in half during the height of the recession. In 2008, Buffett's net worth was an estimated $62-billion, but one year later it fell to $37-billion as the stock of his company, Berkshire Hathaway, slipped nearly 50 per cent. Buffett regained his positioning in 2010 with a reported net worth of $47-billion.

How About the Rest of America?

As these billionaire scions watched half of their fortunes practically evaporate into thin air, many fared better - at least on a percentage basis. According to a study by the Rockefeller Foundation and Yale University, about a quarter of Americans surveyed suffered earnings drops of at least 25 per cent during the recession. Most would agree, though, that the monetary recovery for the average person has not been as quick as it has for these billionaires.

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