Forbes: Bill Gates still world's richest man

Forbes magazine released its list of the 400 wealthiest U.S. citizens Thursday, revealing that once again Microsoft Corp. Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates has not only grabbed the top spot but is the world's richest man with a net worth of US$46 billion.

Shaking off a macroeconomic slowdown, the war in Iraq and legal scrutiny of his software empire, Gates managed to increase his personal fortune by US$3 billion over his net worth of US$43 billion on the 2002 list.

Forbes' editors pinned Gates' success on his Windows operating system's hold on the market, running on 94 percent of desktop computers, as well as Microsoft's ambition to move beyond PCs to TVs, cell phones, cars and wristwatches. Forbes also said that Gates is "methodically diversifying" -- selling off 20 million Microsoft shares a quarter and then reinvesting the money.

Gates' financial savvy apparently didn't rub off on Microsoft Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Steve Ballmer, however. Ballmer fell from number 10 on last year's list to number 11 after being squeezed out by Dell Inc. Chairman and CEO Michael Dell.

In an impressive show of money-making, Dell moved from number 11 on last year's list to number 10 this year with a personal fortune of US$13 billion, exceeding Ballmer's 2003 list net worth of US$12.2 billion. The Forbes editors speculated that Dell's leapfrogging abilities were due to his personal attitude that his company hunts rather than is hunted.

But Microsoft executives still made a strong showing on the Forbes list, with Microsoft cofounder Paul Gardner Allen keeping hold of the number-three spot, with a net worth of US$22 billion. The Washington State University drop-out managed to increase his personal fortune by US$1 billion over last year.

Allen still has a way to go before overtaking Forbes' number-two richest Warren Edward Buffet, however. The Berkshire Hathaway Inc. head has a personal war chest of US$36 billion.

Other wealthy tech industry players on the list included Oracle Corp. Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison, who came in at number nine with a net worth of US$18 billion; eBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar, who landed number 29 with US$6.9 billion, and Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos who came in at number 32 with US$5.1 billion.

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Scarlet Pruitt

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