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Ellison nears, retreats from Gates' wealth

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates continues his reign as the richest technocrat, but longtime rival Larry Ellison narrowed the gap in 2000, according to Forbes.

    Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates continues his reign as the richest technocrat, but longtime rival Larry Ellison narrowed the gap in 2000, according to the latest rankings from Forbes.

    As of Jan. 30, Gates had a net worth of $54.4 billion, or $38.3 billion less than in November 1999. No. 2 Ellison, chief executive of database giant Oracle, was worth $42.1 billion--narrowing the gap between Gates and Ellison to about $12.3 billion from $80.3 billion in 1999.

    Other Microsoft techies dominated the top five in the list of the 100 wealthiest technology executives: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's net worth was $24.4 billion, and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer was worth $15.3 billion. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore was worth $13.2 billion.

    But as an indication of the volatility of tech stocks, Ellison in recent weeks has once again slipped well behind Gates.

    Microsoft shares have dipped about 11 percent since the end of January, reducing the value of Gates' stake to about $48.4 billion--assuming there have been no significant changes in his Microsoft holdings.

    Oracle shares, however, have tumbled by more than 50 percent in the past six weeks, dragging Ellison's stake down to about $19 billion, according to CNET Investor.

    Last April, Ellison briefly surpassed Gates thanks to a surge in Oracle shares and a steep slide in Microsoft stock. At the time, Ellison was worth $53 billion, compared with Gates' $51.75 billion.

    Conspicuously absent from Forbes' newest rankings are a number of e-commerce executives, who roared onto the scene as dot-com stocks soared in 1999 and early 2000. For example, eToys Chairman Toby Lenk was worth $325.8 million in 1999 but is now worth $500,000.

    Forbes ASAP magazine, which will publish the full list April 2, used shares and options holdings taken from the Securities and Exchange Commission to determine wealth. The figures are based on Jan. 30 closing stock prices.