by Alex Veiga, The Associated Press
Sept 22, 2011
LOS ANGELES – America's economic woes don't appear to be hurting philanthropist Bill Gates, who tops Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans for the 18th year in a row.
The magazine said Wednesday that the Microsoft co-founder's wealth amounts to $59 billion, ranking him ahead of all the other billionaires who make up this year's list.
Gates' fortune swelled by $5 billion from a year ago, outpacing No. 2 on the list, Warren Buffett, whose net worth is $39 billion, Forbes said.
Buffett, who wrote in a recent piece for The New York Times that the tax rate he paid last year was lower than that paid by any of the other 20 people working for him in his office, was the only person among the top 20 on Forbes' list to see his fortune shrink from a year ago.
The Berkshire Hathaway CEO's fortune decreased by $6 billion — the largest dollar-amount loss by anyone on the Forbes 400 this year, the magazine said.
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison rounds out the top three richest Americans with a net worth of $33 billion, $6 billion more than last year.
Financier George Soros took seventh place, his first time among the top 10. Forbes estimates his wealth at $22 billion.
Three members of the Walton family, descendants of Wal-Mart Stores founder Sam Walton, also are among the top 10 wealthiest Americans this year. Rounding out the top 10 are Sheldon Adelson, CEO of casino developer and operator Las Vegas Sands, and oil billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
Forbes said the combined wealth of the 400 people on this year's list is $1.5 trillion, with an average net worth of $3.8 billion. That amounts to a 12% increase from last year.
Some 262 people on the list saw their fortunes grow, while 72 saw a decline, the magazine said.
This year, entrepreneurs dominate the list at an all-time high of 70%, Forbes said.
All told, 18 people made it to the Forbes 400 for the first time this year, including Napster co-founder Sean Parker, who ranked 200th, and John Henry, majority owner of the Boston Red Sox and the Liverpool soccer team, at No. 375.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was the biggest dollar gainer on the list, with a net worth of $17.5 billion, which earned him the No. 14 spot.
There were 42 women on the list, including media mogul Oprah Winfrey at No. 139, with a net worth of $2.7 billion
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