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Once again, the rich get richer

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates speaks to software developers in Los Angeles
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates again topped Forbes' rich list with a fortune totaling $51 billion.Fred Prouser / Reuters
/ Source: Forbes

For the third consecutive year the rich got richer. In this, the 24th annual edition of The Forbes 400, the collective net worth of the nation's wealthiest climbed $125 billion, to $1.13 trillion.

All but 26 people on our roster are billionaires. Surging real estate and oil prices drove up several fortunes and helped pave the way for 33 new members (and 9 retreads).

Gulf Coast oilman Tracy Krohn landed on the list after taking his W&T Offshore drilling operation public in January. Developers Jorge Perez and Steven Roth are two of the six real estate tycoons added to the list. Another newcomer: James Leprino, who built a $1.3 billion fortune supplying cheese to pizza joints Little Caesars and Papa John's.

The year's biggest gainer was casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, whose net worth jumped $8.5 billion on a big bet he's making on the peninsula of Macau, China. Gambling is also the source of wealth for Ruth Parasol and Russell DeLeon, a husband-and-wife team who run their online casino, PartyGaming, from Gibraltar.

For every arrival, there is an exit. Eight members of last year's list died, including Wal-Mart heir John Walton, in a plane crash in June. He is replaced by his wife, Christy.

Thirty-three fortunes simply couldn't keep pace with the rising minimum needed to get on the list, which this year was $900 million, a $150 million jump from 2004. Among the notables on whom the curtain descended: DreamWorks cofounder Jeffrey Katzenberg.