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The Super Rich Getting Richer

The total net worth of America's wealthiest people rose 10%, according to a Forbes magazine ranking.

September 19, 2003|Theresa Agovino | Associated Press

The economy is improving for the super rich.

After two years of declines, the total net worth of America's richest people rose 10% to $955 billion this year from 2002, according to Forbes magazine's annual ranking of the nation's 400 wealthiest individuals.

Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, who remained in the top spot, personified the trend toward increasing wealth. His fortune increased $3 billion to $46 billion this year. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen held third place, with his net worth rising $1 billion to $22 billion.

Investor Warren E. Buffett kept the No. 2 position although his wealth was unchanged at $36 billion.

Forbes said the surge in collective net worth was largely because of gains in Internet stocks and tech fortunes. For example,'s Jeff Bezos saw his fortune expand by more than $3 billion, to $5.1 billion, as the stock of the online retailer skyrocketed. Bezos was the top gainer on the list, and was in the No. 32 spot.

David Filo, co-founder of Yahoo Inc., saw his net worth nearly triple to $1.6 billion, tying him with 13 others for the 126th spot.

Yahoo's other co-founder, Jerry Yang, also nearly tripled his fortune, but he shared the 162nd spot on the list with 16 others with a $1.4-billion fortune.

The gains were part of a continuing shift in wealth from the East to the tech-centric West. When the list was first published in 1982, there were 81 members from New York and 56 from California. Today, California boasts 93 Forbes 400 members, while New York has 47.

"There's been this enormous shift in the geographic distribution of wealth," Forbes senior editor Peter Newcomb said.

Newcomb said the migration of high-tech businesses and their founders to the West is a factor in this change, but he also noted that many wealthy East Coast families such as the du Ponts and Rockefellers have been passing on their fortunes to younger members of their clans.

The Walton family was again prominent on the list. Five members of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton's family tied for the fourth spot, each with a net worth of $20.5 billion.

Rounding out the top 10 were Oracle Corp. Chairman Larry Ellison with $18 billion and Dell Inc. CEO Michael Dell with $13 billion in net worth.

Dell replaced Microsoft executive Steven Ballmer in 10th place. Ballmer is now No. 11 with a nest egg of $12.2 billion.

Notable drop-offs from the list include Global Crossing Ltd. founder Gary Winnick, whose company is in bankruptcy protection, and Motorola Corp. CEO Robert Galvin, whose company is suffering from the malaise afflicting the wireless and chip-making industry.

Daniel Ziff, 31, is the youngest person on the list. He inherited his $1.2-billion fortune from his father William Ziff Jr.'s publishing empire.

The oldest person on the list is 95-year-old Max Fisher, who made his $680-million fortune through investments.

Newcomb said Forbes compiled its list by estimating the value of stock and other assets held by the wealthiest Americans.

Forbes used the stock prices of publicly held companies as of the end of August. For privately held companies, the magazine estimated a fair market value based on the stocks of their publicly traded peers. Real estate and other assets were also included.



Golden Staters

These are the richest of the 93 Californians who made the Forbes 400 list, with their national rankings:

9. Lawrence Joseph Ellison, 59, net worth, $18 billion; residence, Redwood Shores; business or source of wealth, Oracle

19. Sumner Redstone, 80, $9.7 billion, Beverly Hills, Viacom

33. Kirk Kerkorian, 86, $5 billion, Los Angeles, investments

33. Gordon Earle Moore, 74, $5 billion, Woodside, Intel

38. Marvin Davis, 78, $4.7 billion, Beverly Hills, investments

40. Donald L. Bren, 71, $4 billion, Newport Beach, real estate

40. David Geffen, 60, $4 billion, Malibu, music

45. Eli Broad, 70, $3.8 billion, Brentwood, home building and financial services

51. Riley Bechtel, 51, $3.2 billion, San Francisco, engineering and construction

51. Stephen Davison Bechtel Jr., 78, $3.2 billion, San Francisco, engineering and construction

51. Charles R. Schwab, 66, $3.2 billion, Atherton, Schwab

56. George Lucas, 59, $3 billion, Marin County, filmmaking

Source: Forbes

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