Forbes magazine has released its list of the 400 wealthiest US citizens, revealing that once again Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, Bill Gates, has not only grabbed the top spot but is the world's richest man with a net worth of $US46 billion.
Shaking off a macroeconomic slowdown, the war in Iraq and legal scrutiny of his software empire, Gates managed to increase his personal fortune by $US3 billion over his net worth of $US43 billion on the 2002 list.
Forbes' editors pinned Gates' success on his Windows operating system's hold on the market, running on 94 per cent of desktop computers, as well as Microsoft's ambition to move beyond PCs to TVs, cell phones, cars and wristwatches.
Forbes also said that Gates was "methodically diversifying" - selling off 20 million Microsoft shares a quarter and then reinvesting the money.
Gates' financial savvy apparently didn't rub off on Microsoft chief executive officer (CEO), Steve Ballmer, however. Ballmer fell from number 10 on last year's list to number 11 after being squeezed out by Dell Chairman and CEO, Michael Dell.
In an impressive show of money-making, Dell moved from number 11 on last year's list to number 10 this year with a personal fortune of $13 billion, exceeding Ballmer's 2003 list net worth of $12.2 billion. The Forbes editors speculated that Dell's leapfrogging abilities were due to his personal attitude that his company hunts rather than is hunted.
But Microsoft executives still made a strong showing on the Forbes list, with Microsoft co-founder, Paul Gardner Allen keeping hold of the number-three spot, with a net worth of $US22 billion. The Washington State University drop-out managed to increase his personal fortune by $US1 billion over last year.
Allen still has a way to go before overtaking Forbes' number-two richest, Warren Edward Buffet, however. The Berkshire Hathaway head has a personal war chest of $US36 billion.
Other wealthy tech industry players on the list included Oracle chairman and CEO, Larry Ellison, who came in at number nine with a net worth of $US18 billion; eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, who landed number 29 with $US6.9 billion, and Amazon.com CEO, Jeff Bezos, who came in at number 32 with $US5.1 billion.