By Luisa Kroll and Kerry Dolan
Bill Gates is the richest American for the 20th year in a row and has reclaimed the title of world's richest person from Mexico's Carlos Slim with a net worth of $72 billion. Warren Buffett, again number two, was the year's biggest dollar gainer, having added $12.5 billion to his fortune. Facebook's hot stock pumped up Mark Zuckerberg's fortune by $9.6 billion and put him back into the top 20 after missing the top cut last year; Carl Icahn lost his battle to stop Dell from going private but he had a great year and moves back in the top 20 for the first time since 2008. The biggest percentage gainer was Workday's David Duffield, whose fortune more than tripled to $6.4 billion, and just behind him in terms of percentage jumps was the entrepreneur Elon Musk, now worth $6.7 billion and ranked 61st.
The 400 wealthiest Americans are worth a record $2.02 trillion, roughly equivalent to the GDP of Russia. That is a gain of $300 billion from a year ago, and more than double a decade ago. The average net worth of list members is a staggering $5 billion, $800 million more than a year ago. The minimum net worth needed to make the 400 list was $1.3 billion. The last time it was that high was in 2007 and 2008, just before the financial crisis. Because the bar is so high, 61 American billionaires didn't make the cut.
There are 20 newcomers to the list. Among the notables are Michael Rubin, whose online sports merchandise retailer Fanatics, recently attracted venture capital investors at a sky-high valuation; Jeff Sutton, who owns a number of the priciest store fronts on Fifth Avenue and Times Square, and 35-year-old Robert Pera, one of just nine under 40, whose wireless networking gear maker Ubiquiti Networks surged after a strong earnings announcement in August. At the time he tweeted this lyric from a Jay-Z song: "And as for the critics, tell me I don't get it. Everybody can tell you how to do it, they never did it."
Only 30 people from last year's list are poorer than a year ago. Twenty-nine people dropped out of the ranks and four people died. Of those 29, only 15 saw their fortunes drop, including T. Boone Pickens, whose costly bets on wind energy lost him his billionaire status, and Manoj Bhargava, whose 5-Hour Energy drink firm has been hit by lawsuits and falling revenues. The rest simply couldn't keep up with the rising tide. Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder is one of the billionaires who didn't qualify and, in his case, even with a rise in his fortune, just didn't have enough to stay in the club.
The ranks are a snapshot of wealth taken on August 23, the day we locked in stock prices.
Take the first steps to building your portfolio.View Course »