From the average Joe to the most bloated fat cat, Americans have more money. But the richest are a lot richer and their ranks have swelled by nearly a third.
The 1996 annual ranking of the 400 wealthiest Americans by Forbes magazine includes a record 135 billionaires, 41 more than last year. The ranking appears in the magazine’s Oct. 14 issue, released Sunday.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett again lead the list with a combined fortune of $33.5 billion.
The Forbes ranking came just as the Census Bureau reported that the earning power of everyone in the country increased last year for the first time in six years.
But while regular folks’ salaries inched up, the coffers of the rich have ballooned, helped by the stock market’s rally and the fervor for computers, phones and the Internet.
For the first time, the average net worth of the Forbes 400 exceeds $1 billion.
Longtime multimillionaires in businesses like finance, retail, oil and real estate were joined by fresh faces.
Kenneth Tuchman, a 36-year-old entrepreneur now worth $1 billion through his telephone marketing company TeleTech Holdings Inc., and Joseph Liemandt, a 28-year-old self-made software developer worth $500 million, are two of the 43 new entrants.
As for the regulars, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Gates remained No. 1 and venerable investor Buffett No. 2, for the third consecutive year.
Gates, 40, of Bellevue, Wash., tipped the scales at $18.5 billion, up from $14.8 billion last year.
Buffett, 66, of Omaha, Neb., saw his net worth jump to $15 billion from $11.8 in 1995, as the stock market boom boosted held by his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. investment company.
Rounding out the top five are Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Metromedia Co. chairman John Kluge, who switched positions from the previous list, and Oracle Corp. chief Lawrence Ellison, who vaulted up from No. 16.