New York (Sept. 22, 2003)   -- While the rest of the nation is still reeling from the recent recession, the total net worth of America's richest people rose 10 percent to $955 billion this year from 2002, according to Forbes magazine's annual ranking of the nation's 400 wealthiest individuals.

That reverses a two-year decline for all those on the list.

The fortune of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who remained in the top spot for the 10th straight year, increased by $3 billion to $46 billion, for example. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen held third place, with his net worth rising $1 billion to $22 billion.

Investor Warren Buffett kept the No. 2 spot, though his wealth stayed at $36 billion.

Forbes said the surge in collective net worth was largely due to gains in Internet stocks and tech fortunes - and the list was especially skewed to those living on the Left Coast. For example, Chief Executive Jeff Bezos saw his fortune expand by more than $3 billion to $5.1 billion, as the stock of the Seattle-based online retailer skyrocketed. Bezos was the top gainer on the list, and ranks No. 32.

When the list was first published in 1982, there were 81 members from New York and 56 from California. Today, California boasts 95 Forbes 400 members, while New York has 47.

-- WebCPA staff

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