- The Washington Times - Friday, September 23, 2005

Google Inc.’s mammoth initial public offering has netted its two co-founders an interesting side benefit: an entree into the upper echelons of Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans.

Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp.’s co-founder and chairman, was the nation’s wealthiest person for the 11th straight year with a net worth of $51 billion, followed again by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Warren Buffett’s $40 billion, according to Forbes, which released its annual rankings Thursday.

Perhaps more noteworthy is the ascent of Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who were ranked 16th by Forbes with $11 billion each, up from No. 43 last year when they each had a net worth of $4 billion.

Google went public last year, but the Internet search engine returned to the capital markets this month with a follow-up offering of shares that raised $4.18 billion. The company has earned $1 billion since going public.

According to Forbes, whose reporters assembled the list through a series of interviews and company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Brin’s and Mr. Page’s post-IPO wealth is accruing at speeds faster than Mr. Gates’ wealth after Microsoft went public.

The top 10 richest Americans saw their collective net worth climb $125 billion, the magazine said. The poorest members of the list each had a net worth of $900 million.

Paul Allen, a childhood friend of Mr. Gates’ who co-founded Microsoft in 1975, was third wealthiest with $22.5 billion, while Dell Inc.’s chief executive and co-founder Michael Dell was fourth with $18 billion and Lawrence Ellison, chief executive of Oracle Corp., was No. 5 with a net worth of $17 billion.

The rest of the top 10 were members of the Walton family, relatives of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton. Jim C. Walton and Christy Walton have $15.7 billion, while Forbes says S. Robson Walton has $15.6 billion. Alice L. Walton has $15.5 billion and Helen R. Walton has $15.4 billion.

Others on the Forbes 400 list to enjoy the fruits of high-tech and the Internet included Steven Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, who was No. 11 with $14 billion, and Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos who has $4.8 billion and ranked 42nd.

But a significant number of Forbes 400 members also found there is money to be made in sports. Twenty-seven members of the list are sports investors, including owners of basketball and football teams as well as an English soccer team.

For example, Mr. Allen owns the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. And Malcolm Glazer, who ranks No. 258 with $1.3 billion, gained fame in this country but infamy in Britain this past spring after he bought a controlling stake in Manchester United, perhaps the world’s best-known soccer team.

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