Bill Gates pictured in 1993 – a year later he was America’s richest man. Photograph: Austral International/Rex Feat
Forbes magazine says the 400 wealthiest Americans are worth a record $2.02tn, up from $1.7tn in 2012…
By Jennifer Rankin, The Guardian – September 16, 2013
Five years after the financial crisis, America’s super-rich have recovered all their losses to see their wealth reach an all-time high.
According to Forbes magazine the 400 wealthiest Americans are worth a record $2.02 trillion (£1.4tn), up from $1.7tn in 2012, a collective fortune slightly bigger than Russia’s economy.
In another sign of fizziness at the top of the economy, the cost to enter the billionaires’ club has also gone up to levels not seen since the 2008 crash. In 2013, an aspiring plutocrat needs at least $1.3bn to make the Forbes list – the highest since just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers sent stock markets plummeting.
Bill Gates has been named as the richest American for the 20th year in a row, with a personal fortune of $72bn. The computer entrepreneur turned philanthropist recovered his position as the world’s richest man in May, when he overtook mobile phone tycoon Carlos Slim, who had held the top spot for the previous four years.
Gates, the university drop-outwho founded Microsoft and has given away $28bn since 1994, saw his fortune grow by $6bn since 2012, partly helped by a rise in Microsoft’s stock price since August.
In second place is Warren Buffett, the investor feted for his shrewdness, who recently bought Heinz. Buffett, with a fortune of $58.5bn, was one of the biggest gainers in 2013, which helped him retain his place on the list. The outspoken founder of software company Oracle, Larry Ellison, takes third place with a $41bn fortune.
The richest woman in the US, and the world, is Christy Walton, who inherited a retail fortune when her husband died in 2005. Walton is estimated to be worth $35.4bn, thanks to her shares in the world’s largest supermarket Walmart, which has annual sales of $466bn and employs 2.2 million people worldwide – a workforce bigger than the population of Slovenia. She shares the Walmart fortune with her brother-in law Jim and sister in law Alice, who take sixth and seventh place on the list, with around $33bn each.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg edged into the top 20 after his personal fortune doubled to $19bnas the tech company’s stock price revived over the summer, following a wobbly stock market debut in 2012.
But the social media tycoon is not the youngest on the list. That title belongs to his former dorm mate and Facebook co-founder, Dustin Moskovitz, 29, just a few days younger than Zuckerberg.
Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York who made a fortune with the eponymous news and data company, retains his place as America’s richest politician. Bloomberg, worth $31bn and America’s 10th richest individual, is due to stand down as mayor in December.
According to Forbes, one in 10 of the top 400 richest Americans are foreign-born. These include George Soros, the Hungarian-born investor, who ‘broke the Bank of England’ during the sterling crisis in 1992 and was wrongly pronounced dead by Reuters earlier this year. Others include Ukranian-born serial investor and London dweller Len Blavatnik ($17.8bn); Russian-born Google co-founder Sergey Brin ($24bn) and the Australian-born media tycoon Rupert Murdoch ($13.bn). Forbes reported that 34 people had slipped out of the rich list, including oilman T Boone Pickens, who lost his shirt investing in wind power at a time of falling gas prices, cutting his fortune to $950m, while AOL founder Steve Case saw his fortune fall to $1.2bn as an investment in LivingSocial, a rival to online discount website Groupon, turned sour.