No slump for America's richest

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The Independent Online
If it is true that the rich are getting richer, it is also the case that the richest are becoming far richer than mere millionaires.

To join Forbes magazine's annual listing of the 400 wealthiest Americans this year, one had to earn only dollars 265m ( pounds 155m), dollars 10m less than in 1991. But the total wealth of the Forbes 400 has risen 4.3 per cent in the past year to dollars 300bn. The richest American, Bill Gates, Microsoft's 36-year- old founder, increased his fortune by almost a third in 1992 to dollars 6.3bn.

Mr Gates' net worth overtakes the dollars 5.5bn estimated for the media magnate John Kluge, 78, who held the top ranking for three years. The next five positions are occupied by the heirs of the late discount retailer Sam Walton, whose combined family fortune has risen to more than dollars 25.3bn.

Warren Buffett, the Nebraska investor who seized the reins at Salomon Brothers last year, occupies the eighth ranking, as he did in 1991, with dollars 4.4bn. The presidential candidate Ross Perot is America's 19th richest man, Forbes estimates, with dollars 2.4bn.

Traditional names like Rockefeller, Getty and Mellon still figure on the list, although they are now barely billionaires. The newer fortunes are in media and computing - including the youngest tycoon to make the list, Michael Dell, 27. The actor Bill Cosby (dollars 300m) joins the list with the record producer mogul David Geffen (dollars 850m), and a long list of media tycoons like Rupert Murdoch (dollars 2.6bn), CNN's Ted Turner (dollars 1.9bn) and the publisher Sam Newhouse (dollars 3.5bn).

Mr Gates is the world's fourth-wealthiest person, Forbes says, behind two Japanese, Taikichiro Mori (dollars 13bn) and Yoshiaki Tsutsumi, and a German, Erivan Haub.

----------------------------------------------------------------- The wealth top ten ----------------------------------------------------------------- Worth (dollars bn) 1 Bill Gates 6.3 2 John Kluge 5.5 3= Helen Walton 5.1 Robson Walton 5.1 Jim Walton 5.1 John Walton 5.1 Alice Walton 5.1 8 Warren Buffett 4.4 9= S I Newhouse 3.5 Donald Newhouse 3.5 -----------------------------------------------------------------