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Forbes survey shows richest in America have lost billions

| Saturday, Sept. 14, 2002

NEW YORK — The rich are getting less rich in America.

For the second straight year but only the fourth time in 20 years of rankings, the combined net worth of Forbes magazine's 400 wealthiest Americans declined this year, reflecting the economy's continuing troubles.

Their total net worth of $872 billion was down from $946 billion in 2001 and $1.2 trillion in 2000.

Even the benchmark for being ranked dropped.

The 2002 survey included individuals with a minimum net worth of $550 million — down from the required $600 million in 2001.

The top 10 remained the same, with some reshuffling of the order.

The biggest loser on the list, released Friday, also was the richest person: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

Gates lost $11 billion, for a net worth of $43 billion. He now has lost $20 billion — mostly because of the drop in value of his Microsoft stock — since the tech meltdown began in 2000.

The biggest winner was investor Warren Buffett, who remained No. 2 on the list. His net worth increased to $36 billion from $33.2 billion.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen also maintained his ranking — third — but saw his net worth fall to $21 billion from $28.2 billion.

Five relatives of the late Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., tied for fourth. Their net worth increased to $18.8 billion each from $17.5 billion in 2001, thanks to strong consumer spending.

Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison, who fell from second in 2000 to fourth in 2001, dropped to ninth this year. He is now worth $15.2 billion, down from $21.9 billion last year.

Rounding out the top 10, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer suffered a $3.2 billion loss, for a net worth of $11.9 billion.

Neither AOL Time Warner's Steven Case nor Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy made the cut this year, casualties of the Internet implosion.

Martha Stewart also was among 35 people bumped, largely because her company's stock drastically declined in value following her legal troubles.

Forty-six women made the list, including the three granddaughters of oilman J. Paul Getty. They each inherited $400 million in 1986.

The youngest among the 400 was 30-year-old Daniel Ziff, who shares a $1.2 billion inheritance with his two brothers, ages 34 and 38. His father, William Ziff Jr., built and sold a publishing empire that included PC Magazine, Boating and Car & Driver magazines.

The oldest person on the survey is 94-year-old Max Fisher, who made his fortune in oil and steel. His net worth was put at $750 million.

The list also included 16 newcomers, including discount retailer Leon Levine, who turned a $6,000 loan and the concept of a bargain into a multibillion-dollar business. His Family Dollar Stores now has 4,600 outlets in 41 states with $3.7 billion in sales. His net worth: $800 million.

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