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GATES, Buffett top list of Forbes' billionaires

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NEW YORK (AP) _ There's new proof that Warren Buffett's value-oriented investing strategy pays off: He slipped by one of Microsoft Corp.'s co-founders to become the world's second richest man, according to Forbes magazine.

Microsoft's Paul Allen lost to Buffett after the net worth of the ``Oracle of Omaha'' increased $4 billion, to $32.3 billion.

Allen, who was tied with Buffett for third place last year, had $30.4 billion, and came in third again, according to list results released by Forbes Thursday.

But Buffett didn't come close to Microsoft's other co-founder, Bill Gates, the richest man on the planet. Gates _ with a net worth of $58.7 billion, down from last year's $60 billion _ easily retained his No. 1 position on Forbes magazine's 15th annual list of the world's billionaires.

The bursting of the Internet bubble knocked a number of billionaires down a peg or two, or off the list entirely.

But the billionaire club swelled to 538 members this year, up from 482 last year, because Forbes decided for the first time to include all billionaires. Previously, the magazine counted only ``working rich'' billionaires to differentiate between those who ran businesses and those who simply lived off their wealth.

Because of the new entries, some year-to-year comparisons are difficult. For example, the overall number of billionaires would have dropped this year under the old parameters, and Forbes wasn't able to provide a comparable number. The problem should be resolved when next year's list appears, said Kerry Dolan, a senior Forbes editor who co-edited the rankings.

``What we decided to do is give the people what they want,'' she said. ``Everybody wants to know who are the richest people in the world, and how they rank.''

The rankings appear in the July 9 issue of Forbes, which reaches newsstands Friday.

Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison, last year's second-richest man, saw his net worth plummet from $47 billion to $26 billion. But that was still good enough to make him No. 4.

German retailers Theo and Karl Albrecht had the fifth spot and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, a global investor from Saudi Arabia, came in sixth.

Three heirs of the Wal-Mart fortune created by founder Sam Walton took the No. 7 through No. 9 spots, and two more Waltons tied for 10th place. Several Waltons who made the list this year were not included last year because they were no longer active in the business.

The stock market shakeout over the past year hurt several on the list. ``Call it the worldwide humbling of the billionaires,'' the magazine said.

For example, the net worth of Japanese software magnate Masayoshi Son, founder of Softbank, dropped from $19.4 billion to $5.6 billion, putting him in 55th place. Last year he was eighth.

Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos saw his net worth fall from $6.1 billion to $2 billion, still good enough for a tie for 234.

German media mogul Thomas Haffa, whose conglomerate owns the rights to the Muppets, dropped from the list, however, after his net worth dropped from $4 billion to $250 million.

The list was set using share prices and exchange rates as of May 21.
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