Bill Gates still richest American, Forbes says

Wed Sep 22, 2010 7:23pm EDT
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By Sabrina Ford

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Things are on the up for U.S. billionaires with more than half of them adding to their net worth in a year which once again saw Bill Gates as the richest of them all, Forbes magazine said on Wednesday.

Gates, founder of Microsoft, was the richest person in the United States for the 17th year in a row with an estimated worth of $54 billion, up $4 billion from last year.

No. 2 on the list was investor Warren Buffett, worth $45 billion, up $5 billion. Oracle founder Larry Ellison's net worth was unchanged, in third place, at $27 billion. Christy Walton, heir to Walmart founder Sam Walton's fortune, was in fourth place with $24 billion, up $2.5 billion.

In stark contrast to the 2009 Forbes 400 list, 217 of the tycoons are now worth more than they were a year ago. Just 84 of the billionaires had a decrease in wealth.

In 2009 a whopping 314 members of the exclusive club had experienced a decrease in their wealth.

The top 10 gained $24.9 billion. The same group had shed almost $40 billion last year.

The total wealth of the group is up 8 percent, besting the Standard & Poor's 500 index, which measured a stock market increase of just 1 percent, Forbes said.

The Forbes 400 are worth a combined $1.37 trillion, compared with $1.27 trillion last year.   Continued...

<p>Bill Gates attends a news conference to promote the film "Waiting For Superman" during the 35th Toronto International Film Festival September 11, 2010. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill</p>