Forbes top 20 richest American Billionaires

he nation’s wealthiest are worth a combined $1.53 trillion, nearly equivalent to the GDP of our neighbor Canada. Their total wealth is up 12% in the year through August 26, when we took a snapshot of everyone’s net worth, meaning these affluent folks did slightly better than the markets; the S&P 500, for instance, was up 10% in that time.

The Forbes 400 or 400 Richest Americans was first published in 1982.  Published by Forbes Magazine magazine, it features wealthiest 400 Americans, ranked by net worth. The list is published annually in September, and 2010 marks the 29th issue. The 400 was started by Malcom Forbes in 1982 and treats those in the list like celebrities. The list may help assess the shape of the economy.

The Forbes 400 grows more meritocratic over time. An all-time high 70% of this year’s list are self-made, up from 55% in 1997.

IN LIST FORM: THE TOP TWENTY RICHEST AMERICANS:

1. Bill Gates (Microsoft) $59 B

2. Warren Buffett $39 B

3. Larry Ellison (Oracle) $33 B

4. Charles Koch $25 B

4. David Koch $25 B

6. Christy Walton (Wal-Mart) $24.5

7. George Soros $22 B

8. Sheldon Adelson $21.5 B

9. Jim Walton (Wal-Mart) $21.1 B

10. Alice Walton (Wal-Mart) $20.9 B

11. S. Robson Walton (Wal-Mart)    $20.5 B

12. Michael Bloomberg    $19.5 B

13. Jeff Bezos (Amazon)    $19.1 B

14. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)    $17.5 B

15. Sergey Brin (Google)   $16.7 B

15. Larry Page (Google)    $16.7 B

17. John Paulson (Hedge funds)   $15.5 B

18. Michael Dell (Dell)    $15 B

19. Steve Ballmer (Microsoft)     $13.9 B

20. Forrest Mars (Candy)    $13.8 B

Bill Gates was the richest person for the 18th straight year, worth $59 billion; the last time he didn’t rank no. 1 was in 1993 when his good friend Warren Buffett was on top. Buffett, who’s been spending a lot of time talking about raising taxes on the rich, is still no. 2 but the gap is widening. His fortune tumbled $6 billion in the past year, making him the biggest loser in terms of total dollars. He gave away $3.27 billion since last year’s rankings but was also pinched by a 10% drop in Berkshire Hathaway’s stock.

Rounding out the top 10 on The Forbes 400: Oracle founder Larry Ellison ($33 billion), industrialists Charles and David Koch ($25 billion apiece), Wal-Mart heirs Christy Walton ($24.5 billion), Jim C. Walton ($21.1 billion) and Alice Walton ($20.9 billion), hedge fund investor George Soros ($22 billion), and casino king Sheldon Adelson ($21.5 billion).

The headlines in this our 30th year of The Forbes 400 belong not to the old stalwarts but to a younger group of entrepreneurs marching their way up the ranks, particularly those who are profoundly impacting social behavior online. These entrepreneurs are using technology to unleash power and make fortunes, and it is these folks who will likely help jump-start the American economy again.

Biggest gainer is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg added $10.6 billion to his fortune and puts him into the top 20 for the first time — he ranks no. 14 with a net worth of $17.5 billion. That puts him ahead of Google rivals Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who added $1.7 billion apiece to their fortunes but slipped five spots in the rankings and are tied at no. 15.

The hoodie-clad 27-year-old Zuckerberg is one of 6 club members to get rich from Facebook. Others include newcomers Sean Parker and Jim Breyer, Facebook’s venture capitalist, as well as Zuckerberg’s former roommate Dustin Moskovitz, whose birthday is eight days after the Facebook chief’s, making him America’s youngest billionaire. Three other social media mavens made their debut including LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, Groupon’s Eric Lefkofsky and Zynga’s Mark Pincus.

There are 18 newcomers to the list: Green Mountain Coffee’s Bob Stiller, Go Daddy’s Bob Parsons, and energy tycoons Farris and Dan Wilks. Six people, including Starbucks’ Howard Schultz and Quicken’s Dan Gilbert, returned to the list after a year or more absence.

Three members of last year’s list have died: John Anderson, William Cook and Jess Jackson. Twenty-one missed the cut, including at least a dozen billionaires, like University of Phoenix’s John Sperling, whose net worths were just shy of $1.05 billion, the price of admission in 2011.

Bill Gates

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Rank: 1

Net Worth: $59 Billion

Age: 55

Source: Microsoft

Residence: Medina, WA

Bill Gates has already given away $28 billion and yet he is still tops on the list.  Just one-fourth of his net worth is still held in Microsoft; the rest is in private equity, global stocks, bonds and private companies. With help from billionaire buddy Warren Buffett, he’s convinced nearly 70 of the world’s wealthiest to sign his “Giving Pledge,” promising to donate the majority of their wealth to charity either during their lifetime or after death. In April toured Amazon ruins and jungles with wife, Melinda, and their children.

Warren Buffett

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Rank: 2

Net Worth: $39 Billion

Source: Berkshire Hathaway

Residence: Omaha, NE

Warren Buffett is he second richest man in America despite shares of his conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway, falling over 10% since last August, while the S&P 500 climbed 10% over the same span. Along with billionaire buddy, Bill Gates, Buffett continues to push the Giving Pledge, wrangling new tycoons to agree to ultimately give away 50% of their fortunes. The son of Nebraska stockbroker met value investor Benjamin Graham while studying economics at Columbia. Took over textile firm Berkshire Hathaway in 1965, company now holds vast investments including banks, insurance, railroads and restaurants.

Larry Ellison

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Rank: 3

Net Worth: $33 Billion

Age: 67

Source: Oracle

Residence: Redwood City, CA

Larry Ellison’s Oracle stock is unharmed — up 15% from a year ago. Ellison sold his half-share in 453-foot yacht Rising Sun to co-owner David Geffen in late 2010. After quietly donating millions to medicine and education, Ellison joined the Giving Pledge at Buffett’s behest in 2010.

Charles Koch

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Rank: 4

Net Worth: $25 Billion

Age: 75

Source: Manufacturing

Residence: Wichita, KS

 

David Koch

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Rank: 5

Net Worth: $25 Billion

Age: 71

Source: Manufacturing

Residence: New York, NY

The Koch brothers got their initial fortune from their father, Fred C. Koch (d. 1967), who invented method of turning heavy oil into gasoline. Charles and David bought out other brothers William and Frederick for $1.1 billion in 1983. Today the company, in which they both have 42% stakes, has investments in pipelines, refineries, fertilizer, fibers and polymers, chemical technology and forest and consumer products.

Christy Walton

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Rank: 6

Net Worth: $24.5 Billion

Age: 56

Source: Walmart

Residence: Jackson, WY

The world’s richest woman, Wal-Mart widow Christy Walton inherited her wealth when husband John Walton, a former Green Beret and Vietnam war medic, died in an airplane accident near his home in Wyoming in 2005. Her late husband’s investment in First Solar also boosts her total net worth by nearly $2.7 billion. The bulk still comes from her holdings in Wal-Mart, the retailer founded by her father-in-law Sam Walton and his brother James in 1962. Walton received almost $300 million in Wal-Mart dividends since last year. The stock was up only 3% in the past year.

George Soros

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Rank: 7

Net Worth: $22 Billion

Age: 81

Source: Hedge funds

Residence: Katonah, NY

In July George Soros announced that he is turning his fund into a family office, returning just under $1 billion of his $25.5 billion assets to outside investors — dodging Dodd-Frank’s registration mandate. In August his ex-girlfriend, 28, sued him for $50 million for an apartment she says he promised to buy her. Soros is best known for shorting England’s currency, “breaking” the Bank of England in 1992 and reportedly making $1 billion in one day when Bank of England stopped fixing exchange rate. He has given away more than $8 billion since 1979 to human rights, public health and education groups. Last year he pledged $100 million to Human Rights Watch, in part to counteract America’s loss of the “moral high ground.” He’s also given away $150 million to Roma Rights (Gypsies).

Sheldon Adelson

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Rank: 8

Net Worth: $21.5 Billion

Age: 78

Source: Casinos

Residence: Las Vegas, NV

Casino king Sheldon Adelson continues to enjoy a hot hand. His fortune is up $7 billion since last year, as his strong position in the casino-crazy Asian markets has pushed stock of Las Vegas Sands up roughly 50% to a recent $48. (Shares once traded as low as $1.50 in 2009.) Nearly 90% of its operating profit comes from Asia; the thriving Marina Bay Sands casino opened in Singapore last year. Through his majority-owned subsidiary Sands China, Adelson has 3 resorts in Macau. His goal is to push company shares back over $100, near their 2007 peak. Not that he’ll spend the money on himself: “The richer I get, the more money goes to cancer research.” The cabdriver’s son created the computer industry’s marquee event, Comdex, in the mid-1980s. He sold it to Japan’s Softbank for $862 million 1995 and later built the $1.5 billion Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and the 1.2-million-square-foot Sands Convention Center in 1997 in Las Vegas. He opened the $1.9 billion Palazzo resort in 2008.

Jim Walton

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Rank: 9

Net Worth: $21.1 Billion

Age: 63

Source: Walmart

Residence: Bentonville, AR

Wal-Mart heir Jim Walton is Chairman and CEO of his family’s Arvest Bank, which has branches in Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. His father, Sam Walton (d. 1992), a former clerk, founded a Bentonville store with his brother James in 1962. Today, Wal-Mart has sales of $405 billion and employs more than 2.1 million people across 28 countries. The company’s shares were up 3% in the past year. Jim Walton received over $300 million in dividend payouts. He also serves as chairman of Community Publishers, which operates newspapers in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

Alice Walton

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Rank: 10

Net Worth: $20.9 Billion

Age: 61

Source: Walmart

Residence: Millsap, TX

Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton is set to open her Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas in November. Considered one of the world’s preeminent collections of American art from colonial time to the present, the museum will include works donated by Walton herself and the Walton Family Foundation, with the possible additional gifts from other private collectors. Wal-Mart shares are up 3% over the past year. Walton graduated from Trinity College in San Antonio, Texas, and now runs a horse ranch in central Texas.

S. Robson Walton

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Rank: 11

Net Worth: $20.5 Billion

Age: 67

Source: Walmart

Residence: Bentonville, AR

Wal-Mart Chairman S. Robson Walton has served as the head of the giant retailer’s board since 1992. His father, Sam Walton (d. 1992), a former clerk, founded a Bentonville store with his brother James in 1962. Today, Wal-Mart has sales of $405 billion and employs more than 2.1 million people across 28 countries. The company’s stock was up 3% in the last year. Walton received over $300 million in dividend payouts. Before joining Wal-Mart, he was a partner with the law firm of Conner & Winters in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michael Bloomberg

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Rank: 12

Net Worth: $19.5 Billion

Age: 69

Source: Bloomberg

Residence: New York, NY

Bloomberg’s company installed its 300,000th data terminal this year. In February, it announced it had acquired 400,000 square feet of new office space in a midtown Manhattan building where it already had 700,000 square feet. Bloomberg LP is also expanding its European operations out of a new, larger London base. Bloomberg has given away at least $1.8 billion to charities to date, funding the arts and public health.

Jeff Bezos

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Rank: 13

Net Worth: $19.1 Billion

Age: 47

Source: Amazon

Residence: Medina, WA

The mastermind of the world’s largest online retailer Jeff Bezos got his start selling books. Now, thanks to the Kindle, he sells more e-books than the paper variety. Even Apple diehards are talking about the launch of Amazon’s “iPad killer” tablet later this year. He continues to fund secretive aerospace company Blue Origin, which shot into the news in August when an unmanned spacecraft blew up during a test flight. But Amazon shares have defied gravity, jumping 55% year-to-year and adding $6.5 billion to his net worth.

Mark Zuckerberg

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Rank: 14

Net Worth: $17.5 Billion

Age: 27

Source: Facebook

Residence: Palo Alto, CA

These days everything Mark Zuckerberg does grabs headlines, whether he’s dining with President Obama, donating $100 million to Newark schools or vowing to eat only meat he’s killed himself. In August a sale of Facebook shares by Interpublic placed a $66.5 billion valuation on the social network, helping to make him the year’s biggest dollar gainer. Despite the jump, he spent a relatively modest $7 million for a Palo Alto house, where he and his longtime girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, now live. The long-anticipated IPO is likely to hit sometime in 2012.

Sergey Brin

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Rank: 15

Net Worth: $16.7 Billion

Age: 38

Source: Google

Residence: Los Altos, CA

Google’s Sergey Brin saw his cofounder Larry Page take back the reins at the search giant this year, replacing Eric Schmidt as CEO. Now the two are overseeing an effort to recoup some market share from much-hyped rivals, including Facebook. In June, the engine launched its social media project, Google+. Its Groupon killer, Google Offers, is now live in a handful of big city markets. The firm’s Google Chrome browser now commands 20% market share, according to StatCounter, showing Google’s increasing dominance outside of search alone. According to Alexa, Google.com is the most visited website in the world. Brin focuses on raising margins and directing special projects at the Mountain View, Calif.-based company. He emigrated from Russia at age 6. The son and grandson of mathematicians on his father’s side, his mother was a research scientist at NASA. He met co-founder Page in a computer science Ph.D. program at Stanford and dropped out in 1998 to start Google from a friend’s garage. The two share a 767 jet. Brin is also an investor in Airship Ventures and private space travel company Space Adventures. He has become a benefactor for research into Parkinson’s disease, after finding out he has a genetic mutation increasing the odds he’ll get it. (His wife Anne Wojcicki is the cofounder of personal genetics company 23andMe, through which he learned of his condition.) Brin practices diving, yoga and acrobatics to lower odds he’ll develop the disease.

Larry Page

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Rank: 15

Net Worth: $16.7 Billion

Age: 38

Source: Google

Residence: Palo Alto, CA

Larry Page is back in the driver’s seat at Google: he took over as CEO in April after ceding the role to Eric Schmidt a decade ago. Now the company must wait to see whether Page’s return will boost Google’s fortune in the long term. Since his appointment in April, stock price is down 10%. Page and co-founder Sergey Brin have already launched a host of new products this year, aimed at taking on Google’s younger rivals. In June, the engine launched its social media project, Google+, a Facebook competitor. Its Groupon killer, Google Offers, is now live in a handful of big city markets. When he’s not running the show, Page’s personal passions include buying up chunks of residential Palo Alto for a network of houses that use new types of fuel cells, geothermal energy, and rainwater capture. He also rides a Zero X electric dirt bike and an electric sports car from Tesla Motors, in which he and Brin are investors.

John Paulson

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Rank: 17

Net Worth: $15.5 Billion

Age: 55

Source: Hedge funds

Residence: New York, NY

Call it the Paulson paradox. While his flagship fund has tanked 30% so far this year, as bets on Bank of America, Citigroup and China’s Sino Forest went south, his personal fortune is up 25%, year over year. Reason? The gold-denominated versions of his firm’s funds, where he is said to have most of his personal stash, have gained steadily. Last year his take-home pay was $4.9 billion, a record for the hedge fund industry. He is donating $15 million to a new maternity hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where his father was born. Paulson became a billionaire in 2007 shorting subprime securities and earning a $3.5 billion payout. He got his start at Odyssey Partners, a private equity and hedge fund and later became managing director of M&A at Bear Stearns. He founded Paulson & Co in 1994.

Michael Dell

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Rank: 18

Net Worth: $15 B

Age: 46

Source: Dell

Residence: Austin, TX

The Texas computer mogul is $500 million richer as Dell stock is up 15% year on year. The PC firm has come a long way since Michael started selling computers from his college dorm room in 1984 (he took Dell public in 1988). Dell hasn’t been able to reach its 2005 peak, when Michael was worth $18 billion, but the company is exploring new ways to make money. Dell’s enterprise business — servers, storage and services — now comprises a third of $60 billion annual sales. Dell won’t abandon its computing heritage, however. As Michael tweeted in August, “the reports of the PC’s death have been greatly exaggerated.” Most of his fortune is now tied up in his investment firm MSD Capital, with around $12 billion from past share sales under management. He and wife Susan support anti-childhood-obesity campaigns.

Steve Ballmer

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Rank: 19

Net Worth: $13.9 B

Age: 55

Source: Microsoft

Residence: Bellevue, WA

Microsoft’s embattled chief dumped 18% of his shares in November 2010, his biggest sale ever and first in seven years. Bill Gates’ college mate dismisses the suggestion that it’s a move to the exits, saying he’s “fully committed” to Microsoft, where he’s been boss since 2000. In that time Microsoft has lost half of its value while profits have doubled. Analysts put the breakup value of the company up to three times current stock price. The software sales juggernaut has sold 350 million copies of Office and 400 million copies of Windows 7. Search engine Bing has had modest market share gains and Ballmer has a big consumer hit with the Kinect motion control system for the Xbox. Kinect is one of fastest selling gadgets of all time. Xbox is also now the top-selling console in the U.S. In May Ballmer went deep and spent $8.7 billion (32 times ebitda) on Skype, the cheapo calling service that still loses money. Microsoft wanted Skype for its new mobile operating system, Windows Phone, which is getting positive reviews. Detroit native dropped out of Stanford M.B.A. program to join Harvard classmate Bill Gates in 1980 as employee number 30. Keeps his philanthropy quiet. Mostly works, goes to the gym and hangs out with his family.

Forrest Mars

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Rank: 20

Net Worth: $13.8 B

Age: 80

Source: Mars Candy

Residence: Big Horn, WY

Forrest Mars Jr. and his siblings, John and Jacqueline, own $31.6 billion (sales) Mars, the world’s largest candy company thanks in part to its $23 billion acquisition of gum maker Wrigley’s in 2008. The candy maker’s most famous brands include Milky Way, M&M’s, 3 Musketeers, Twix, Skittles, and Snickers, reportedly named for the Mars family’s favorite horse. Forrest’s grandfather, Frank Mars, began making chocolates in 1911 in his Tacoma, WA kitchen. It was his father Forrest Sr. who invented malt-flavored nougat and M&M’s, over 400 million of which are produced in the United States each day. Mars has even branched out into consumer and pet foods with the well known brands Uncle Ben’s Rice and Whiskas under the Mars umbrella. Forrest recently made headlines for protesting the construction of a Montana railroad that would facilitate coal extraction from the state because the proposed route passed through his ranch. When his attempts to block it via legal action failed, Forrest simply bought a stake in the railroad and adjusted the route accordingly. A noted history buff and preservationist, the $23 million Mars Education Center opened at Fort Ticonderoga this summer. Forrest’s former wife, Deborah, is a Ticonderoga native.

Jacqueline Mars

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Rank: 20

Net Worth: $13.8 B

Age: 71

Source: Mars Candy

Residence: The Plains, VA

 

John Mars

Rank: 20

Net Worth: $13.8 B

Age: 75

Source: Mars Candy

Residence: Jackson, WY

 

Sources: yahoo, forbes

 

Comments

  1. Will the EUR bankrupt? If so, it will be a disaster to the economic of European and the world.

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