Richest Americans' net worth jumps to $1.7 trillion: Forbes

Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:08pm EDT
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By Dan Burns

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The net worth of the richest Americans grew by 13 percent in the past year to $1.7 trillion, Forbes magazine said on Wednesday, and a familiar cast populated the top of the annual list, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison and the Koch brothers.

The average net worth of the 400 wealthiest Americans rose to a record $4.2 billion, up more than 10 percent from a year ago, while the lowest net worth came in at $1.1 billion versus $1.05 billion last year, the magazine said. Seven in ten of the list's members made their fortunes from scratch.

It was a bad year, however, for social media moguls, whose net worth fell by a combined $11 billion. On the heels of Facebook Inc's rocky IPO in May, the No. 1 social network's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was the year's biggest dollar loser: his net worth fell by nearly half to $9.4 billion from $17.5 billion. He also slid to the No. 36 slot from No. 14 a year ago, Forbes said.

Facebook shares have fallen 40 percent from their IPO price of $38 a share in May.

Dismal performances by other social media stocks dropped some executives from the list altogether, including Groupon Inc Chairman Eric Lefkofsky, No. 293 on last year's list, and Zynga Inc Chairman and CEO Mark Pincus, No. 212 on the 2011 list.

"The gap between the very rich and merely rich increased and helped drive up the average net worth of The Forbes 400 members to an all-time record $4.2 billion," said Forbes Senior Wealth Editor Luisa Kroll.

Collectively, this group's net worth is the equivalent of one-eighth of the entire U.S. economy, which stood at $13.56 trillion in real terms according to the latest government data. But the 13 percent growth in the wealth of the richest Americans far outpaced that of the economy overall, helping widen the chasm between rich and poor.

Forbes attributed the growth in net worth in part to the performance of the stock market and a recovering real estate market.   Continued...

The cover of the Forbes 400 issue on philanthropy is shown in this handout photo supplied to Reuters September 18, 2012 featuring 12 of the more than 150 influential entrepreneurs the magazine brought together for a private discussion on ways to help solve some of the world�s most intractable problems. From Warren Buffett and Oprah to Bill and Melinda Gates, some of the world�s greatest philanthropists with a combined net worth of $126 billion attended the summit. The Forbes 400 issue goes on sale September 21, 2012. REUTERS/Forbes/Handout