Bill Gates America's richest for 14th year in a row

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NEW YORK, Sep 20 (Reuters) Microsoft founder Bill Gates is the richest person in America for the 14th year in a row, followed by investor Warren Buffett, according to Forbes magazine's latest list of the wealthiest Americans.

The pair's fortunes each grew by 6 billion dollars in the past year, Forbes said today, with Gates' fortune 59 billion dollars and Buffett 52 billion dollars.

Buffett has pledged 85 per cent of his net worth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and family charities.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (28 billion dollars), head of Las Vegas Sands Corp and software tycoon Larry Ellison (26 billion dollars), chief executive of Oracle Corp, remain at No 3 and No 4 on the 25th annual ranking of 400 rich Americans, which now requires a minimum net worth of 1.3 billion dollars for inclusion.

''The collective net worth of those listed on the 400 this year rose 290 billion dollars to 1.54 trillion dollars,'' Forbes said.

''Despite market jitters, nearly half of the 45 new members come from hedge fund and private equity investments.'' For the first time since 1989 there are no members of the Walton family, descendants of Wal-Mart Stores Inc founder Sam Walton, in the top 10. Four members -- Jim, Christy, Robson and Alice -- slipped to 12th and 15th place.

The Waltons were displaced by Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who came in at No 5 with fortunes of 18.5 billion dollars, and brothers Charles and David Koch, who run Koch Industries, the world's second largest private company, and are each valued at 17 billion dollars, earning them 9th place.

Investor Kirk Kerkorian was the biggest gainer on the list, his fortune rising by more than 9 billion dollars in the past year to 18 billion dollars. He debuted in the top 10 at No 7 -- up from No 26 last year.

Michael Dell, chief executive of Dell Inc the world's second-largest PC maker, was No 8 on the list with a fortune of 17.2 billion dollars.

Of the top 400 richest Americans, Forbes said 270 were entirely self-made, 74 inherited their wealth and 39 are women.

There were 82 American billionaires who did not make the list.

The youngest member, and new to the list, is 33-year-old hedge fund manager John Arnold, who came in at No 317 with a 1.5 billion dollars wealth, while the oldest is 98-year-old John Simplot, valued at 3.6 billion dollars and No 214 on the list.

REUTERS AK BST0347

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