The American super-rich have been hit by the recession with billions of dollars knocked off the fortunes of the country’s wealthiest men and women, new research has found.
According to business magazine Forbes the top 400 richest people in the US have lost a collective 300 billion dollars (£188 billion) in the last 12 months.
Among those taking a financial hit in the period were Microsoft founder Bill Gates and philanthropic businessman Warren Buffett. They saw their personal wealth shrink by 7 billion dollars (£4.4 billion) and 10 billion dollars (£6.3 billion) respectively.
Both still have a way to go before they have to resort to searching the house for loose change. Gates, with an estimated fortune of 50 billion dollars (£31 billion), tops the Forbes 400 list, with Buffett coming in second with 40 billion dollars (£25 billion).
But their drop in fortunes helped drive the overall money pot of the US superrich downwards.
Faltering capital markets and real estate prices were blamed for the net worth of the Forbes 400 falling from 1.57 trillion dollars (£982 billion) in 2008 to 1.27 trillion dollars (£794 billion).
In all, 314 returning members of the elite Forbes 400 club registered a loss, while a further 32 fell off the list completely.
Chat show host Oprah Winfrey was among those seeing their fortune dwindle over the last year, down by 400 million dollars (£250 million) on 2008.
One of those missing the cut this year was Allen Stanford. The business tycoon and cricket entrepreneur is facing fraud charges and didn’t make it on the list due to his assets being frozen.