Things are on the up for US billionaires, with more than half of them adding to their net worth in a year that once again saw Bill Gates as the richest of them all, Forbes magazine said on Wednesday.
Gates, founder of Microsoft, was the richest person in the US for the 17th year in a row with an estimated US$54 billion, up US$4 billion from last year.
Second on the list was investor Warren Buffett with US$45 billion, up US$5 billion. Oracle founder Larry Ellison’s net worth was unchanged, in third place, at US$27 billion, while Christy Walton, heir to Walmart founder Sam Walton’s fortune, was in fourth place with US$24 billion, up US$2.5 billion.
In stark contrast to last year’s Forbes 400 list, 217 of the tycoons are now worth more than they were a year ago. Just 84 of the billionaires had a decrease in wealth.
Last year, 314 members of the exclusive club had experienced a decrease in their wealth.
The top 10 gained US$24.9 billion. The same group had shed almost US$40 billion last year.
The total wealth of the group is up 8 percent, besting the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, which measured a stock market increase of just 1 percent, Forbes said.
The Forbes 400 are worth a combined US$1.37 trillion, compared with US$1.27 trillion last year.
The price of admission to the list is back up to US$1 billion from last year when US$950 million was enough to make the top 400.
There are no new entries or drop-offs in the top 10, but the list is shuffled.
The Koch brothers, heads of energy and manufacturing giant Koch Industries, now rank above three other members of the Walton family and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of news and information company Bloomberg LP, who round out the top 10.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, No. 35, saw the largest relative increase, more than tripling his fortune to US$6.9 billion from US$2 billion. Fellow Facebook co-founders Dustin Moskovitz and Eduardo Saverin join the list with fortunes of US$1.4 billion and US$1.15 billion respectively.
Born eight days after Zuckerberg, 26-year-old Moskovitz is the world’s youngest billionaire.
The oldest tycoon on the list is David Rockefeller Sr, 95, with US$2.4 billion.
Media magnate Oprah Winfrey comes in at No. 130 and is one of 42 women on the list.
Automobile heir William Ford Sr made the list for the first time since 2005, at 385th spot with US$1 billion after Ford Motors Co’s stock rose 50 percent and hit a five-year-high.
California is the state with the most billionaires — 83 — among them No. 332 Meg Whitman, with US$1.2 billion, the Republican candidate for governor of the state in November’s elections.
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