Almost all of America's wealthiest citizens are poorer this year.
America's super rich are getting poorer. For only the fifth time since 1982, the collective net worth of The Forbes 400, our annual tally of the nation's richest people, has declined, falling $300 billion in the past 12 months from $1.57 trillion to $1.27 trillion.
Faltering capital markets and real estate prices, along with divorce and fraud, pushed the fortunes of 314 members down and drove 32 plutocrats off the rankings.
Hurt the most: Warren Buffett, America's second-richest citizen. The Oracle of Omaha dropped $10 billion from his personal balance sheet as shares of Berkshire Hathaway fell 20% in 12 months. He is now worth $40 billion.
Beating out Buffett for the 16th straight year as America's richest man is Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Sluggish Microsoft shares and declining outside investments pushed the software visionary's net worth down $7 billion in 12 months.
Rounding out the top 10 on The Forbes 400: Oracle founder Larry Ellison ($27 billion); Wal-Mart heirs Christy Walton ($21.5 billion), Jim C. Walton ($19.6 billion), Alice Walton ($19.3 billion), and S. Robson Walton ($19 billion); media maven Michael Bloomberg ($17.5 billion) and energy titans Charles and David Koch ($16 billion each).
The 10 richest Americans lost a combined $39.2 billion in the past 12 months, a 14% decline.
Other big losers include casino mogul Kirk Kerkorian, whose nest egg shed $8.2 billion in the past year. Shares of his gambling giant MGM Mirage have fallen 90% from their October 2007 high.
Also hitting the brakes: Enterprise Rent-A-Car founder Jack C. Taylor. The rental car titan's fortune is down $7 billion in a year as the travel industry slows and private-company valuations fall.
The biggest gainer is banker Andrew Beal, who tripled his net worth to $4.5 billion buying up cheap loans and assets as the markets crumbled last fall.
Membership on the list was made easier as the price of admission dropped $350 million, from $1.3 billion last year to $950 million this year, paving the way for 19 new members and 19 returnees.
Newcomers to the list include Marvel Entertainment chief Isaac Perlmutter, whose net worth soared to $1.55 billion after Disney agreed to buy the superhero outfit in August for $4 billion in cash and stock.
Other new members include Bloomberg LP co-founder Charles Zegar ($1 billion), mapping-software magnate Jack Dangermond ($2 billion) and trading titan Steven Schonfeld ($1 billion).
Former New York lawyer and accountant Jeffry Picower makes his debut on The Forbes 400 with a net worth of $1 billion. A longtime investor with Bernard Madoff, he is likely worth billions more (Picower is alleged to have extracted billions of dollars from Madoff's fund before it collapsed).
Picower and his foundation are named in a lawsuit by the liquidator for Madoff's investment business, who is seeking to recover funds allegedly obtained through "fraudulent activity." Picower claims if he knew Madoff was a fraud he would not have transferred money into Madoff accounts.