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Why billionaire Bill is in a league of his own

Bill Gates has emerged as the USA's richest man in a league table compiled by the wealth-watchers at Forbes magazine. The unassuming Microsoft founder has enjoyed mind boggling success - yet, more than almost any other businessman, he has also embodied the principle of 'giving something back'.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed billions of dollars to charity. Bill's net worth is $54bn. Their foundation's website quotes "our friend and co-trustee Warren Buffett" and his advice about charity: "Don't just go for safe projects," Warren says. "Take on the really tough problems." And Warren is the second richest person, with a nest egg of $45bn, while tech company Oracle's Larry Ellison and supermarket giant (and Asda-owner) Walmart's Christy Walton occupy third and fourth place. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has overtaken Apple founder Steve Jobs with a $6.9bn fortune. Zuckerberg is one of eight under-40s on the list, with other youngsters including Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, with a joint $30bn fortune .

Time will tell if they, too, grow into philanthropists like Gates - while still managing to amass huge wealth at the same time.

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