One billion dollars is no longer enough. The price of admission to this, the 25th anniversary edition of the Forbes 400 is $1.3 billion, up $300 million from last year. The collective net worth of America's plutocrats rose $290 billion to $1.54 trillion.
Wall Street led the charge, despite this summer's market jitters. Nearly half of the 45 new members made their fortunes in hedge funds and private equity. Money manager John Paulson joins the list after pocketing more than $1 billion short-selling subprime credit this summer.
Leveraged buyout titans David Bonderman and James Coulter of Texas Pacific Group make their first appearance on the list, along with William Conway, Daniel D'Aniello and David Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group. Blackstone billionaires Peter Peterson and Hamilton "Tony" James also join the Forbes 400 for the first time.
See the full list of the richest Americans at our partner site, Forbes.com
Other new members of the list include oilman Harold Hamm, who landed on our ranking after taking his Continental Resources oil and gas operation public in May. Brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta scratched and clawed their way onto the list with their Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view fight fest. The Fertitta brothers also recently took their Station Casinos gambling company private with Forbes 400 member Tom Barrack for $9 billion in cash and assumed debt.
Twelve people returned to the list, including computer memory mavens David Sun and John Tu, and John Catsimatidis, who made his fortune buying and holding an oil refinery and New York City real estate through his holding company Red Apple Group.
The youngest member of the Forbes 400 this year is 33-year-old John Arnold, a former Enron trader who now runs hedge fund Centaurus Energy and has amassed a $1.5 billion fortune. The oldest member of the list is potato king John Simplot, who is 98 years old and worth $3.6 billion.
The biggest gainer this year was Kirk Kerkorian, who padded his fortune by $9 billion as shares of his MGM Mirage casino outfit rose 135% over the past year. Kerkorian enters the top 10 along with Google Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who are up $4.4 billion and $4.5 billion, respectively; and brothers Charles and David Koch, who added $5 billion apiece to their fortunes on surging energy and commodities prices. They replace Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and four members of the Walton family.
Seven members of last year's list have died, including media mogul Barbara Cox Anthony; she is replaced by her two children, James Kennedy and Blair Parry-Okeden. Other notable deaths include Wal-Mart scion Helen Walton, real estate mogul Leona Helmsley and Cargill grain heir W. Duncan MacMillan.
Fifty people couldn't keep up. They include online gambling titans Ruth Parasol and J. Russell DeLeon, whose PartyGaming Internet poker company's stock has fallen 75% in the past 12 months. Also dropping off the list is caffeine king Howard Schultz, whose Starbucks stock has languished over the past year, and Campbell Soup heir Dorrance Hill Hamilton, who had appeared on every Forbes 400 list since 1982.