Forbes 400: The Richest People in America

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Steve

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16. Steve Ballmer

Net Worth: $13.1 billion

Source: Microsoft

Residence: Seattle, Wash.

Age: 54

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Released last October, the new version of Windows OS is selling at the rate of 7 copies per second; it's already on 16% of PCs. But consumer failures grab headlines: The Kin phone was pulled off shelves in weeks. Still, the search engine Bing, launched in May 2009, now has a 13% share. Microsoft stock has been lackluster over past 12 months, losing most valuable U.S. company title to Apple. Since Ballmer took over as chief executive of Microsoft in January 2000, the software giant's market cap is down by half. It's been flat over the past five years. Detroit native dropped out of Stanford M.B.A. program to join Harvard classmate Bill Gates 1980 as employee number 30.

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Paul

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17. Paul Allen

Net Worth: $12.7 billion

Source: Microsoft, investments

Residence: Mercer Island, Wash.

Age: 57

The Microsoft cofounder has recently sued half of Silicon Valley. His Interval Research Corp. filed patent-infringement complaints against Apple, eBay, Facebook, Yahoo, Google and others. He left Microsoft in 1983 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. His holding company Vulcan invests in tech ventures: space travel, artificial intelligence. Owns the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, NBA's Portland Trailblazers.

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Jeff

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18. Jeff Bezos

Net Worth: $12.6 billion

Source: Amazon

Residence: Seattle, Wash.

Age: 46

Dot-com pioneer Jeff Bezos is constantly looking for ways to reinvent his business. Already the world's largest online bookshop, Amazon is now also the world's biggest online retailer, with net sales of $24.5 billion in 2009. Its Kindle e-reader has been its bestselling item for the last two years. In fact, in May, June and July of this year, Amazon sold 143 e-books for every 100 paper copies. (In July late Swedish author Stieg Larsson became first to sell 1 million books on Kindle). It now also operates online shoe retailer Zappos, which it bought in July 2009 for $1.2 billion in cash and stock. Amazon stock up just over 30% in past year; Bezos' shares account for 90% of his net worth. Has sold $400 million worth of Amazon shares since the start of the year. Company paid Bezos base salary of just $81,840 in 2009 but spent $1.7 million on his security; a spokesperson declined to explain why the additional security was necessary or what it entailed. Bezos funds aerospace company Blue Origin, which is developing spacecraft in West Texas; currently building a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing rocket. Blue Origin's website says it intends its rocket to take astronauts, researchers, and the public into space.

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Anne

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19. Anne Cox Chambers

Net Worth: $12.5 billion

Source: media

Residence: Atlanta, Ga.

Age: 90

Media heiress Anne Cox Chambers celebrated her 90th birthday last winter by visiting the Jacksonburg, Ohio farm where she grew up. She's the daughter of Cox Enterprises founder James M. Cox (d. 1957), who finished high school at 17 and worked as a schoolteacher and newspaper reporter before paying $26,000 for the Dayton Evening News in 1898. Cox Enterprises now includes Cox Communications cable company, Cox Media Group (newspapers, TV and radio stations), Manheim (car auction) and AutoTrader.com. Her nephew Jim Kennedy is chairman of the $15 billion (sales) company. Ambassador to Belgium under Jimmy Carter, Chambers holds the French Legion of Honor title. The long-time arts patron has a wing at Atlanta's High Museum of Art named after her.

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John

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20. John Paulson

Net Worth: $12.4 billion

Source: hedge funds

Residence: New York, N.Y.

Age: 54

Paulson made $3.5 billion in 2007 shorting stocks of companies that sold subprime mortgages to those with less-than-perfect credit. Now he's betting on gold: His fund recently bought a 9% stake in NovaGold Resources and is one of the largest holders of gold exchange-traded funds. Paulson's bet against subprime referenced in SEC suit against Goldman Sachs. Two months later his Paulson & Co. bought shares in the firm; he's also been investing in gaming outfits like Harrah's and MGM. He got his start at Odyssey Partners, a private equity and hedge fund and later became managing director of M&A at Bear Stearns. He founded Paulson & Co in 1994. The tycoon currently owns a 10.4-acre estate on Southampton's Lake Agawam.

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