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Gates king of Forbes 400 richest again

Microsoft's chairman is ranked the wealthiest American again, as other high-tech executives drop off the list and the net worth of America's billionaires declines overall.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates topped Forbes magazine's list of the 400 richest Americans again this year, as several other high-tech executives dropped off the list and the net worth of America's billionaires declined overall.

Gates was the richest person in America and the world again this year, worth $54 billion as of Aug. 27, according to the annual Forbes survey. Gates has placed first for eight years in a row.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen came in third place, with $28.2 billion, separated from Gates by investor Warren Buffet, who is said to be Gates' sometime bridge partner.

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer also placed in the top 10, with a net worth of $15.1 billion. Gates and Ballmer both recently received pay raises but saw the size of their cash bonuses decline.

The only other technology executive placing in the top 10 was Larry Ellison, CEO of Microsoft rival Oracle, who is worth $21.9 billion. The rest of the slots were filled by relatives of deceased Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

In 11th and 12th place were sisters Barbara Cox Anthony and Anne Cox Chambers, owners of media empire Cox Enterprises, whose Cox Communications division is said to be a bidder for AT&T Broadband. The sisters, both worth $11.3 billion, are the only newcomers to crack the top 15 this year, according to Forbes.

Dell Computer's Michael Dell was 15th, with $9.8 billion, and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar was 36th, with $4.6 billion.

In a sign of the times, the number of technology executives on the list has dropped dramatically, and the net worth of the top-ranking billionaires has also gone down.

Of the 54 people to disappear from the list of 400, many were victims of the tech deflation. CMGI's David Wetherell, WorldCom's Bernard Ebbers and RealNetworks' Robert Glaser were some of the high-profile names missing from the list.

Of the tech execs who remained, several saw their fortunes shrink considerably. Gates is worth $54 billion this year, down from $63 billion last year, and Ellison is worth $21.9 billion, down from $58 billion last year. According to CNET's CEO Wealth Meter, Ellison was one of the best performers in 2000, when his net worth increased by $3.9 billion.

The net worth of the group declined to $946 billion this year from $1.2 trillion in 2000, only the third time the list's worth has declined since Forbes started compiling it in 1982.