The annual Forbes 400 rankings of the wealthiest Americans were released Tuesday, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, with a fortune of $81 billion, retained his usual spot at the top of the list.
But, for the first time in 15 years, there’s a new No. 2: Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, who saw his fortune surge by $20 billion – thanks to a rise in the online retailer’s stock price – to $67 billion.
Bezos edged out the longtime runner-up to Gates, investor Warren E. Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, who gained just $3.5 billion to reach an estimated $65.5 billion this year. Berkshire Hathaway owns The Buffalo News, and Buffett serves as chairman of this newspaper.
The top ranks of the Forbes 400 are filled with other tech giants. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg gained $15.2 billion this year, to $55.5 billion, to reach the fourth spot on the list. Oracle’s Larry Ellison, with $49.3 billion, came in at No. 5. And Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google, with $38.5 billion and $37.5 billion, respectively, ranked Nos. 9 and 10.
The 400 members of the list have a record-breaking, combined net worth of $2.4 trillion, up from $2.34 trillion last year. The average net worth of a Forbes 400 member reached $6 billion, also a record high, up from $5.8 billion in 2015.
In addition to Buffett, a number of other billionaires on the list have ties to Buffalo. They include:
•Elon Musk, No. 34, $11.6 billion, the Los-Angeles-based chairman of SolarCity, which is moving into a massive solar panel factory in South Buffalo built with $750 million in state aid, and the CEO of Tesla Motors, which wants to buy SolarCity.
•Terry Pegula, No. 134, $4.1 billion, the owner of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres with his wife, Kim, and the builder of the HarborCenter entertainment and hotel complex that is part of the revival of Canalside. The Boca Raton, Fla., resident made his fortune in the oil and gas industry as a pioneer of fracking.
•Jeremy M. Jacobs Sr., No. 142, $4.1 billion, the chairman of privately held Delaware North, the global concessions and hospitality giant that is based in Buffalo and that recently moved into a new downtown headquarters. The company was founded by his late father and uncles. Jacobs, a resident of East Aurora, also owns the NHL’s Boston Bruins.
•Robert Rich Jr., No. 150, $3.8 billion, chairman of Rich Products, the privately held frozen foods conglomerate headquartered in Buffalo with extensive international operations. Rich, who lives in Islamorada, Fla., has served as chairman since 2006 of Rich Products, which was founded by his late father.
•B. Thomas Golisano, No. 232, $2.8 billion, chairman of Paychex, the Rochester-based payroll services company. The Naples, Fla., resident previously owned the Buffalo Sabres and last year made a multimillion investment to buy 50 percent of Bak USA, the Buffalo-based startup tablet maker.
Not quite making the cut was Jeffrey Gundlach, the “bond king” investor and art collector who recently made a historic $42.5 million pledge to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Forbes’ real-time net worth tracker puts the fortune of the Amherst native, who now lives in Los Angeles, at $1.66 billion, not quite enough to meet the minimum net worth of $1.7 billion to make this year’s list, ranking him 423rd.