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Friday, September 24, 1999 Published at 19:15 GMT 20:15 UK

World: Americas

Internet puts businessmen on rich list

Bill Gates fends off rivals to the billionaires' throne

The latest review of the 400 richest people in the United States shows that they have a joint wealth of $1 trillion - reportedly more than the gross domestic product of China.

Computers and the Internet have contributed to a record number of billionaires, compiled by the American Forbes magazine. Nineteen of the new names on this year's annual list made their fortunes with internet-based companies.

[ image: Four of the five top spots are computer-related]
Four of the five top spots are computer-related
Four of the top five spots are computer related, with Microsoft's co-founders and president taking three of those positions.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates once again leads the list, with the co-founder of the software company Paul Allen weighing in at number two.

Richest in the world

To cap it all the software boss's personal worth has jumped from $59bn a year ago to $85bn. He is also the richest man in the world, according to an international list published by the magazine in July.

Click here to see the top computer kings

Number four in the US list is Microsoft president Steve Ballmer and number five, Michael Dell, the 34-year-old chief executive of the Dell computer company.

The minimum needed even to make the list has risen from $500m last year to $625m this year.


The soaring stock market helped land 60 new names on the year's list, with 35 of those members of the billionaire's club.

A number of new Internet billionaires are featured for the first time. Jay Walker, founder of internet commerce company and Pierre Omidyar, founder of Net auctioneer eBay, both made it into the top 50.

Jeffrey Bezos, head of online bookseller, which has a customer-base of 10 million, has appeared on the list in 18th place.

Easy come, easy go

According to Washington correspondent Paul Reynolds, most of this internet-based wealth is defined by the value of the shares in the companies and there are doubts as to the long-term worth of some of them.

One thing the list makes clear this year is that the attainment of the American Dream is becoming easier and easier. While it took the legendary John D Rockefeller 25 years to make his first billion, it took Gary Winnick just 18 months.

Mr Winnick, who put his money into the undersea fibre-optic cable company Global Crossing, has joined the list in 68th position.

The magazine has grouped the rich list members into various groupings, to indicate how they made their money.

These include:

  • Microsoft Money
  • Bandwidth Boys
  • Cable Guys
  • Media Moguls
  • You've Got Money
  • Financiers
  • Inheritors
  • Landlords
  • Rag Traders
  • Optionaires
  • Jocks
  • Money Managers
  • Old Money
  • Retailers

Almost 40% of the list got rich the easy way - by being born with a silver spoon in their mouths. One hundred and forty nine of the members of the list inherited some or all of their worth.

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