With $66 Billion Bill Gates Richest on Forbes List

Bill Gates (No. 1) retains his top spot on Forbes’ 2012 ranking of the richest people in America with $66 billion, up $7 billion from 2011, followed by Warren Buffett (No. 2) with $46 billion, also up $7 billion from last year, and Larry Ellison (No. 3) with $41 billion, up $8 billion – and the biggest dollar gainer this year.

George Soros (No. 15) and Sheldon Adelson (No. 12) dropped out of the Top 10 this year while Michael Bloomberg (No. 10) is back in with $25 billion, up $5.5 billion.

The combined wealth of America’s richest is $1.7 trillion, up from $1.5 trillion in 2011, in due part to the rising stock market, a rebound in real estate values – especially in cities like Los Angeles and New York, and rising values for art works.

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The average net worth of a Forbes 400 member is a staggering $4.2 billion, up from $3.8 billion last year, and the highest in at least a decade, as two-thirds of the individuals added to their fortunes in the past year.

Net worth increased for 241 members, and decreased for 66 members. Cost of admission to the 2012 list is $1.1 billion, up from $1.05 billion a year ago.

Twenty newcomers climbed into the ranks, including four immigrants and four hedge fund tycoons. Among them are: Pakistan-born Shahid Khan (No. 179), owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars; Judy Faulkner (No. 285), founder of health records firm Epic Systems; Andrew & Peggy Cherng (No. 239) of Panda Express; and Jack Dorsey (No. 392), creator and cofounder of Twitter.

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The biggest flameouts were the social media moguls, who lost a combined $11 billion in one year. The year’s biggest dollar loser: Mark Zuckerberg (No. 36) down $8.1 billion to net worth of $9.4 billion.

Other notable dropouts include: Groupon’s Eric Lefkofsky, Zynga’s Mark Pincus and Facebook’s venture capitalist Jim Breyer.

Faces to watch include Sophia Amoruso of Nasty Gal, Ryan Seacrest of Ryan Seacrest Productions and Kevin Systrom of Instagram. Forbes released the list Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Photo Credit: Forbes contributing photographer Michael Prince

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Rakesh Raman