Gates still world's richest man, but his lead narrows

Thursday, June 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) -- His net worth shrank by a third this past year, but Bill Gates' $60 billion bankroll is still big enough to make him the world's richest man, according to Forbes magazine's annual rankings.

The gap between the Microsoft chief and his challengers is narrowing, however, because of the booms and busts of the high-tech world he helped create.

The world's billionaires' club expanded this year to 482, pushing the combined wealth of the world's richest 200 working people upward of $1.1 trillion -- 17 more people and a $100 billion increase from 1999, the magazine reported Thursday.

The rankings appear in the July 3 issue of Forbes, which reaches newsstands Friday.

The 14th annual list of the working rich ranks Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison as the world's second-richest man with $47
billion, followed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen at $28 billion. Last year, Ellison was No. 30 with $9.5 billion.

That gap between the top two spots -- about $13 billion -- is much smaller than it was a year ago, when Gates' $90 billion fortune
topped No. 2 Warren Buffett's $36 billion. This year, Buffett fell to a third place tie with Allen at $28 billion.

There was a three-way tie for No. 5: German retailers Theo and Karl Albrecht; Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud of Saudi Arabia, a
global investor; and S. Robson Walton, whose family started Wal-Mart, at $20 billion each. Several other Walton heirs also are
billionaires but are not included in the working rich list because they are no longer active in the business.

Japanese software magnate Masayoshi Son was No. 8 with $19.4 billion, well below his $68.5 billion peak reached in mid-February.

Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computer Corp., was No. 9 at $17.8 billion, followed by Canadian media magnate Kenneth Thomson of
Thomson Corp. with $16.1 billion.

Five of the top 10 working rich are 47 or younger: Gates, Allen, Prince Alwaleed, Son and Dell.

The highest-ranking working woman was Abby Johnson of Fidelity Investments with $7.4 billion. She was 31st among the working rich.

The magazine said stock market fluctuations were behind many of the changes in the rankings for the year 2000.

After reaching nearly $120 a share late last year, Microsoft dropped as low as $60 last month during the government's antitrust
challenge. Oracle stock has been up as much as 500 percent.

Forbes identifies the "World's Working Rich" as those who made their own fortune or are working with their inheritance.

Separately, Forbes ranked the estimated net worth of the world's kings, queens and dictators. Leading that category were Saudi
Arabia's King Fahd with $30 billion.