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List of Moneyed in U.S. Grows

Five members of the family whose wealth comes from Wal-Mart remain in Forbes' billionaire top 10.

September 24, 2004|From Associated Press

It looks like the U.S. billionaire's club isn't quite as exclusive as it once was.

There are now 313 billionaires in the country, the largest number ever and a huge jump over the 262 counted last year, according to Forbes magazine, which Thursday released its annual ranking of the 400 richest Americans.

The combined net worth of the 400 rose $45 billion and reached $1 trillion this year for the first time since 2000, before the dot-com bust wiped out billions of dollars in wealth.

The biggest billionaire of all was again Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, whose $48 billion in estimated wealth was up $2 billion from 2003. Gates was again followed by investor Warren Buffett with $41 billion, the list's biggest dollar gainer with a $5-billion increase, and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who held the No. 3 spot despite the fact that his net worth fell $2 billion to $20 billion.

Members of the Walton family, whose fortune comes from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., again swept spots four through eight, with each having estimated wealth of $18 billion.

The only tweak in the top 10 from last year came from Dell Inc.'s Michael Dell and Oracle Corp.'s Larry Ellison, now No. 9 and No. 10, respectively, swapping places from 2003. Dell stock has weathered the tech slump relatively well over the last year, giving Michael Dell a net worth of $14.2 billion. Ellison, whose stock has suffered, had $13.7 billion in holdings, a drop from $18 billion last year.

There are 45 new names on the list, including Google Inc.'s Sergey Brin and Larry E. Page -- also the youngest members of the 400 at 31. The two tied for No. 43 with $4 billion each after their company's stock went public in August.

Casino mogul Steve Wynn, who climbed to No. 215 from No. 377 last year, saw the largest percentage increase in wealth -- it doubled to $1.3 billion from $650 million. Last year's biggest dollar gainer, Amazon.com Inc.'s Jeff Bezos, received the less coveted title of biggest dollar loser this year with an $800-million drop.

Donald Trump's net worth edged up $100 million to $2.6 billion, despite the financial problems of his casino empire. But Trump slipped three spots on the list, falling to 74 from 71.

Returning to the list after a year's absence was Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry. Her $750 million in wealth tied her for last place.

Fifty-four people dropped off the list from last year, including Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Michael Eisner.

The 400 include 51 women -- whose average net worth is $2.8 billion, higher than the whole list's average of $2.5 billion.

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