U.S. wealthiest lost $300 billion in last year: Forbes

Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:07pm EDT
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By Martinne Geller

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The super-rich are getting poorer with the 400 wealthiest Americans losing $300 billion of net worth in the past year, hurt by sagging capital and real estate markets, according to the annual Forbes magazine ranking.

The Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans, released on Wednesday, said Warren Buffett was the biggest loser, with the famed investor shedding $10 billion in net worth as shares in his firm Berkshire Hathaway tumbled.

The list of top 10 richest Americans remained virtually unchanged from the 2008 list, with Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates in the top spot with a fortune of $50 billion, down $7 billion from last year.

Buffett was No. 2 with $40 billion and Oracle Corp founder Lawrence Ellison was No. 3, with his fortune unchanged at $27 billion. Ellison was the only member of the top 10 who did not suffer significant losses.

The U.S. stock market, as measured by the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, slid about 43 percent from September 2008, when the financial crisis erupted, through March -- shedding $5 trillion in market value.

The wealth estimates were made according to asset values on September 10. Many at the top saw their net worth rise since March, when Forbes published its list of the world's richest people, coinciding with the bottom of the bear market.

The top 10 combined lost almost $40 billion, said Matthew Miller, editor of the Forbes list, in what he called a "bloodbath" of wealth destruction for America's rich and not-so-rich alike. The net worth of all 400 combined fell 19 percent, to $1.27 trillion from $1.57 trillion.

"No one is going to cry for any of these super-rich guys, because even the ones who dropped from $2 billion last year to $100 million still have a very nice lifestyle," Miller said.   Continued...

<p>Microsoft founder Bill Gates attends a news conference at the launch of the 2009 DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) Report in London June 11, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth</p>