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Forbes, Fortune Square Off on the Richest Person Alive

September 22, 1987

NEW YORK (AP) _ Fortune and Forbes magazines do not have a high opinion of each other’s choices for the world’s richest person.

Forbes gives the golden laurels to Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, a Japanese landlord who it says is worth $20 billion. But Fortune credits Tsutsumi with a meager $2.5 billion.

Fortune says the Sultan of Brunei is richest, with a net worth of $25 billion. But Forbes says it disqualified the sultan and other potentates from its list ″since their power is political first and economic only secondarily.″

The sniping broke out over the weekend as the rival business magazines issued news releases on their forthcoming issues. The magazines can’t even agree on who has bragging rights in the business of naming billionaires.

Fortune said Monday that Forbes rushed its list into print this week to beat Fortune to the newsstand by a week. Forbes admits it, but notes that it has been printing its own list of the 400 richest Americans since 1982.

″It was a bizarre move on their part to do this,″ Fortune spokesman Gary Belis said Monday of Forbes’ decision to hurry up its list.

″If that somehow strikes Fortune as unfair, I cannot imagine the ground on which that protest would rest,″ responded Sheldon Zalaznick, Forbes’ managing editor.

Fortune got in the first licks when it caught wind of the Forbes list and issued a press release on Saturday promoting its Oct. 12 cover story. Forbes’ news release on its Oct. 5 cover story came out a day later.

Calculating the wealth of billionaires seems to be more art than science, judging from the discrepancies between the two magazines’ calculations. Forbes’ list is heavy with Japanese, while Fortune’s is strong on Arab royalty and North Americans.

Tsutsumi, No. 1 on the Forbes list, is the 53-year-old head of Seibu Railway Group, which is Japan’s biggest and richest landlord. The empire consists of railways, over 30 hotels, some 25 golf courses, ski resorts and other land.

Fortune’s choice, the 41-year-old Sultan of Brunei, owns practically everything in the Delaware-sized country of Brunei on the island of Borneo.

Forbes’ cover story includes only foreign billionaires, but the magazine issued a news release Monday with the names of the top 49 Americans on its annual Forbes 400 list, which will be in its Oct. 26 issue.

Only three individuals or families make the top 10 on both magazines’ lists of combined U.S. and foreign billionaires. They are Albert, Paul and Ralph Reichmann, Canadian real estate, newsprint and oil magnates; Kenneth Roy Thomson, a Canadian with interests in news media and real estate; and Sam Moore Walton, the discount retailing king from Bentonville, Ark.

The last big flare-up between business magazines occurred when Forbes remade the cover of its June 15 issue to resemble Business Week’s in an effort to draw attention to its allegations that Business Week had copied its idea for reports on executive pay.

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