Gates Still America’s Richest… For Now

Though his company’s stock has been clobbered on Wall Street, Bill Gates retains his title as America’s richest man, according to Forbes Magazine.

Gates, the 44 year-old chairman of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), checked in at $63 billion (US$), down from $85 billion a year ago, a drop of more than 25 percent.

Gates managed to stay ahead of his chief competition, Oracle Corp. CEO Lawrence Ellison, according to the closely watched annual Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. Ellison, who is 56, ranked 12th on the list last year and is second this year with a net worth $58 billion.

Stock Troubles

Microsoft stock was caught in the April tech sell-off and had its share of other woes, most notably the antitrust case in which a U.S. district judge found that the Redmond, Washington company acted as a monopoly. The company has also faced increasing concern about the future of software products as more computing moves onto the Internet.

The firm’s shares are currently trading at half of their yearly high.

Still, Microsoft money is heard from twice more in the top 10 spots on the Forbes list. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who is worth $36 billion, places third, while current CEO Steve Ballmer is tied for seventh place — with four members of the Wal-Mart empire — at $17 billion.

A fourth high-tech magnate also made the top five. Gordon Moore, the 71-year-old chairman of Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) is fifth on the list this year at $26 billion, up from 11th on the 1999 list and just behind stock market mogul Warren Buffet at $28 billion.

Nasdaq Dropouts

The turbulence on the Nasdaq also shuffled the deck in the rest of the list. Dropping off the 400 list from last year are the co-founders of Red Hat, Robert Young and Marc Ewing. The pair debuted on the list in 1999 at $670 million each, but failed to make the cut this year as the value of their company’s stock waned.

Legal troubles are the most likely cause for Michael Robertson’s disappearance from the list. The founder of (Nasdaq: MPPP) enjoyed a brief run among the elite, but a slew of successful copyright lawsuits and out-of-court settlements has pounded the company. Robertson alone lost $1.4 billion during the course of the year.

High-Tech Well Represented

Despite a turbulent year that saw the dot-com shakeout gain traction and investors cast a weary eye on unprofitable ventures, recognizable names from the technology world still populate the list.

Michael Dell, chairman of Dell Computer Corp., holds the 13th spot on the list, with $16 billion. William Hewlett, who made up half of the team that founded Hewlett-Packard, is worth $9 billion and ranks 26th on the list, just ahead of Ted Waite, the founder of Gateway, who has $8.4 billion.

Other notables include CEO Jeff Bezos, who is reportedly worth $4.7 billion and ranks 48th. Original eBay creator Pierre Omidyar, who developed the now legendary auction site to sell his wife’s collection of Pez dispensers, is 51st at $4.6 billion.

Steve Case of America Online is 189th on the list at $1.5 billion.

Forbes, which released the list Thursday night on its Web site and will publish the list in its October 9th issue, said the total net worth of the Americans on the list grew by more than five times to $331 billion.

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