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'Forbes' Reporter Discusses List of Wealthiest Americans

Aired September 16, 2002 - 12:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Amid a bear market and several accounting scandals in the corporate world, "Forbes" magazine is out with its annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. Despite an $11 billion loss since last year, Microsoft's Bill Gates still tops the list, with a net worth of $43 billion. Financier Warren Buffett follows, with $36 billion. Another Microsoft-made man is in at third; Paul Allen is worth $21 billion. And the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune take the next five spots, with more than $18 billion each.
With more on who's on the list and who's not this year, we are joined by "Forbes" reporter Leigh Gallagher.

Hi, Leigh.

LEIGH GALLAGHER, "FORBES": Hi, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: So I guess it's not so much who's on the list, but it is pretty interesting to see who is off the list, right?

GALLAGHER: Absolutely. It's been a rough year for this bunch. You will notice there are several names that are missing this year. Among those are some high-profile technology fortunes. Steve Case is no longer on the list. Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems is off this year. And obviously, Martha Stewart, who has been in press so much lately, you won't find her in this issue. She does not meet the minimum requirements of $550 million this year to make it on to the list.

PHILLIPS: Is stock market entirely to blame for these declines?

GALLAGHER: It's mostly it blame. Like most Americans, these people have most of their net worth tied up in the stock market. So when it falls, so do they.

PHILLIPS: So Martha, you mentioned she dropped off quite a bit. But people are still going to the stories and digging in on her fortune and buying her stuff.

GALLAGHER: It's interesting. Investors just get spooked when there is one person who is so synonymous with a company -- and that that person -- the fear is always what if Martha gets hit by a bus. This is far worse than getting hit by a bus, or just running. So her stock has taken a big hit.

PHILLIPS: Exactly how much did the average income decline overall for those listed?

GALLAGHER: The Overall total net worth of the list dropped by about $80 billion this year.

PHILLIPS: Wow!

GALLAGHER: Yes.

PHILLIPS: We talked about Warren Buffett, still one of the top names, top moneymakers.

GALLAGHER: Warren Buffet was one of the few who actually made money this year.

PHILLIPS: Tell us why. Why -- it seems like the same individuals keep at the top of list. No matter what happens to our economy, they are still up there. What are they doing that we're not doing?

GALLAGHER: The top 10 pretty much stays the same. But this year, what we've seen is a revenge of the sort of humdrum business. Warren Buffett is a traditional value investor, the oracle of Omaha. Some other people who saw some significant gains this year were people in manufacturing. The biggest gain was registered by Samuel Johnson by SC Johnson company, which makes household product like Pledge and Glade. When the tech boom was going strong, nobody thought about these guys, but now they are at the top.

PHILLIPS: So would you say humdrum businesses are conservative businesses, or are we talking two different things here?

GALLAGHER: Yes, conservative, but they have been out of favor for a while. It's time that they are coming back.

PHILLIPS: All right. Leigh Gallagher, "Forbes" magazine, pretty interesting. Good article. We'll see what happens next year, huh?

GALLAGHER: Definitely.

PHILLIPS: Leigh, thanks.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.

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