Bill Gates (No. 1) retains his top spot on Forbes' 2011 ranking of the richest people in America with $59 billion, followed by Warren Buffett (No. 2) with $39 billion and Larry Ellison (No. 3) with $33 billion. George Soros (No. 7) joins the Top 10 for the first time, with $22 billion, and is one of several of the 27 hedge fund managers – 7% of the Forbes 400 – featured in "Hedged Fortunes."
This year entrepreneurs dominate the ranks, comprising an all-time high of 70% of the Forbes 400 members. Enthusiasm for popular brands, like Starbucks and Forever 21, has helped boost some fortunes, while the spread of social media has sparked others. The combined wealth of America's richest is $1.5 trillion, with an average net worth of $3.8 billion, reflecting a 12% uptick from 2010. Wealth was up for 262 members of this year's list, while 72 members saw a decline. Cost of admission was $1.05 billion, up from $1 billion a year ago.
The Forbes 400 welcomed 18 new members in 2011, including Sean Parker (No. 200) who rocked the music industry with Napster and helped build Facebook; John Henry (No. 375), majority owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC; Jeffrey Skoll (No. 139) whose Participant Media's most recent release, "The Help," has grossed nearly $143 million to date; and Forever 21's Jin Sook & Do Won Chang (No. 88).
Every member of the Top 20 gained wealth this year, with the exception of Buffett, down $6 billion from 2010, the largest dollar amount loss of any 400 member. The year's biggest dollar gainer is Mark Zuckerberg (No. 14), who cracked the Top 20 with a gain of $10.6 billion. Other gainers include Michael Bloomberg (No. 12); Jeff Bezos (No. 13); and Donald Trump (No. 128). Charles Schwab (No. 91) is among the 72 members who lost wealth, along with Mark Cuban (No. 171); Yahoo cofounder David Filo (No. 375); and seven Cargill family members.
In the second annual "Forbes 400 Summit," world-famous Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates talks with Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz (No. 91), the world's youngest billionaire, about the importance of legacy. George Kaiser (No. 31) is one of many members of the Forbes 400 who are extending their legacy through their philanthropy. His $96.5 million donation to the George Kaiser Family Foundation is among several of the largest reported charitable gifts made by 400 members in 2010 and 2011.
Among the 42 women on the list are media mogul Oprah Winfrey (No. 139) who is fighting to revive her floundering cable network; newcomer Gayle Cook (No. 96); and Meg Whitman (No. 331). There were 24 dropouts this year, including Edgar Bronfman, Sr. (Seagram's) and Richard Hayne (Urban Outfitters). Other notable 400 members include Ronald Perelman (No. 26) – he and his dad, Raymond, have an intimate talk in "Funny Business"; Steve Jobs (No. 39) the subject of Forbes' upcoming graphic novel, The Zen of Steve Jobs; and Ted Turner (No. 212), who has mellowed – somewhat.
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