Forbes 400: Poor, poor billionaires
Because of the recession, almost all of America’s richest citizens are less wealthy this year, Forbes’ annual report finds.
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America’s superrich are getting poorer. For only the fifth time since 1982, the collective net worth of The Forbes 400, our annual tally of the nation’s richest people, has declined, falling $300 billion in the past 12 months, from $1.57 trillion to $1.27 trillion.
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Faltering capital markets and real-estate prices, along with divorce and fraud, pushed down the fortunes of 314 members and drove 32 plutocrats off the rankings.
Warren Buffett (c) Getty Images
Hurt the most: Warren Buffett, America’s second-richest citizen. The Oracle of Omaha dropped $10 billion from his personal balance sheet as shares of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A, news, msgs) fell 20% in 12 months. He is now worth $40 billion.
Beating out Buffett for the 16th straight year as America’s richest man is Microsoft (MSFT, news, msgs) co-founder Bill Gates. Sluggish Microsoft shares and declining outside investments pushed the software visionary’s net worth down $7 billion in 12 months. (Microsoft is the publisher of MSN Money.)
Rounding out the top 10 on The Forbes 400: Oracle (ORCL, news, msgs) founder Larry Ellison ($27 billion); Wal-Mart Stores (WMT, news, msgs) heirs Christy Walton ($21.5 billion), Jim C. Walton ($19.6 billion), Alice Walton ($19.3 billion) and S. Robson Walton ($19 billion); media maven Michael Bloomberg ($17.5 billion); and energy titans Charles and David Koch ($16 billion each).
Price of entry falls below $1 billion
The 10 richest Americans lost a combined $39.2 billion in the past 12 months, a 14% decline.
Kirk Kerkorian (c) Associated Press
Other big losers include casino mogul Kirk Kerkorian, whose nest egg shed $8.2 billion in the past year. Shares of his gambling giant, MGM Mirage (MGM, news, msgs), have fallen 90% from their October 2007 high.
Also hitting the brakes: Enterprise Rent-A-Car founder Jack C. Taylor. His fortune is down $7 billion in a year as the travel industry has slowed and private-company valuations have fallen.
Andrew Beal (c) Matthew Mahon
The biggest gainer is banker Andrew Beal, who tripled his net worth to $4.5 billion by buying up cheap loans and assets as the markets crumbled last fall.
Membership on the list was made easier as the price of admission dropped $350 million, from $1.3 billion last year to $950 million this year, paving the way for 19 newcomers and 19 returnees.
Newcomers to the list include Marvel Entertainment (MVL, news, msgs) chief Isaac Perlmutter, whose net worth soared to $1.55 billion after Walt Disney (DIS, news, msgs) agreed to buy the superhero outfit in August for $4 billion in cash and stock.
Other new members include Bloomberg co-founder Charles Zegar ($1 billion), mapping-software magnate Jack Dangermond ($2 billion) and trading titan Steven Schonfeld ($1 billion).
New member with Madoff ties
Former New York lawyer and accountant Jeffry Picower makes his debut on The Forbes 400 with a net worth of $1 billion. A longtime investor with Bernard Madoff, Picower is likely worth billions more. (He is alleged to have extracted billions of dollars from Madoff’s fund before it collapsed.)
Video: Battle of the billionaires