/ 18 September 2008

Bill Gates is the richest once again

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has recovered his spot at the top of the United States money heap, displacing investor Warren Buffett as America’s richest person, Forbes magazine’s latest list reveals.

With $57-billion net worth, Gates again leads the list of 400 richest individuals in the world’s wealthiest country.

He displaced Buffett who briefly held the position this year but who has seen his Berkshire Hathaway investment group’s shares slip 15% since February and is now worth $50-billion.

According to Forbes, whose list was published late on Wednesday, the golden 400 have $1,3-billion dollars net worth or more. However, their combined net worth rose by only $30-billion, or 2%, to $1,57-trillion.

Forbes said that rising oil and dizzy art prices fuelled the entry of 31 new members into the ultra-rich club and the return of eight previous members.

A notable arrival was Mark Zuckerberg (24), founder of the social networking site Facebook. Forbes estimates his worth at $1,5-billion.

Newcomers ranged from fertiliser tycoon Alexander Rovt to Patron tequila founder John Paul DeJoria and Norman Braman, the car dealer and art collector.

Meanwhile, turmoil on the stock and housing markets saw 33 others drop off the list, including a former head of the troubled insurance giant American International Group, Maurice Greenberg, and a former head of the online auction site eBay, Margaret Whitman.

The biggest gainers were led by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took eighth place with $20-billion worth after a transaction put a new value on his Bloomberg media and financial data network.

The biggest loser was casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, whose fortune fell by $13-billion over 12 months — the equivalent to $1,5-million an hour — although he still has $15-billion and occupies 15th place.

About two-thirds of the list are self-made billionaires and just more than 10% are women, led by television star Oprah Winfrey, whose fortune rose by $200-million to $2,7-billion.

Forbes cautioned that the list does not take into account the most recent setbacks on the stock market. — Sapa-AFP