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Microsoft's Gates still America's richest person; Buffett moves up to second place

Updated:

NEW YORK (AP) _ Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates isn't quite as wealthy as he was a year ago, but he remains the richest person in the world, according to a Forbes Magazine survey.

Gates' net worth fell to $54 billion this year, down from $63 billion last year, largely due to the declining value of Microsoft shares. But the diversity of his portfolio, which includes significant investments beyond Microsoft, kept him in the top spot for the eighth straight year.

Investor Warren Buffett moved into second place on Forbes' list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, followed by the other Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen. Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison dropped from second to fourth.

The rest of the top 10, except for Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, was made up of relatives of deceased Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton.

The survey, which was released by Forbes on its Web site Thursday night, reflected wealth as of Aug. 27.

Buffett, 71, saw his net worth fall to $33.2 billion. But shares in his Berkshire Hathaway Investments outpaced the Standard & Poor's 500 last year, according to Forbes.

The slowing economy was reflected in the declining worth in the rankings. For only the third time since Forbes began compiling the list in 1982, the combined net worth of all 400 fell, from $1.2 trillion in 2000 to $946 billion this year.

Fifty-four ``new economy'' entrepreneurs were pushed off the list as the high-tech sector continued to slide. They were replaced by people in more traditional sectors, including retailing and manufacturing.

This year's list includes 236 billionaires, down from 274 last year. It took a minimum net worth of $600 million to make it into the top 400 this year, down $125 million from last year.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the magazine recalculated the impact on 50 of the list's more recognizable names since the cutoff date of Aug. 27.

Gates lost another $7.2 billion from Aug. 27 to Sept. 24, leaving his net worth at $46.8 billion. Buffett lost $2.8 billion, dropping his net worth to $30.4 billion, and Allen's net worth fell $4 billion to $24.2 billion.

The total net worth of the group of 50 dropped from $311 billion to $266.5 billion, or more than $44 billion.

``By looking at the impact of recent events on the working capital of a group of America's top businesspeople and investors, we thought we could provide one measure of the shock the American financial system sustained,'' said Forbes editor Bill Baldwin.

The magazine uses its own methodology to analyze and come up with its net worth estimates. Publicly held assets were priced to the close of markets Aug. 27.
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