Bay's richest among nation's largest accounts

The caviar budgets of Bay Area tech kings Larry Ellison, Sergey Brin and Larry Page are in no danger of collapse in the near-future.

The local entrepreneurs once again found their way into the top 20 of Forbes magazine’s 400 Richest Americans list Thursday.

Oracle Corp. CEO Ellison, who lives in Woodside, is the third richest American. Only Bill Gates and Warren Buffet can top Ellison’s $27 billion. Ellison, 64, was ranked fourth last year.

While the wealth of Sergey Brin and Larry Page exceeds the gross domestic product of some countries, the 35-year-old Google founders slipped in the rankings. Brin, of Palo Alto, earned 14th place with $15.9 billion. Page, of San Francisco, is close behind with $15.8 billion.

According to Forbes, whose list was published late Wednesday, the golden 400 all have $1.3 billion net worth or more. However, their combined net worth rose only 30 billion dollars, or two percent, to 1.57 trillion dollars.

But why do we care about the rich? Dr. Shoshana Simons, director of the expressive arts therapy program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, says the fascination with the ultra-rich is part ambition, part escapism.

“There’s something in this culture of the American dream that makes people believe it’s attainable if they work hard enough,” she said. “People’s dreams are somehow tied up and invested in the rich and powerful.”

Wanting to know more about the lives of wealthy people we will never meet may also be a sign of the times, Simons said.

“Why do we care so much about those top 400 people’s lives? Why do we care about who they marry or when they go on vacation?” she asked. “It leads me to wonder about our human need for connection.”

Clinical psychologist Richard Buggs calls the preoccupation with the rich “affluenza.”

“It really describes the obsession with people with money,” he said. “People think they don’t have the same problems.”

But most of the research into the link between money and happiness has determined that once one’s basic needs are met, their level of happiness doesn’t rise along with their income levels, Simons said.

But the bank accounts of the Bay Area’s richest don’t benefit only them. Redwood City Mayor Rosanne Foust said residents have reaped the rewards of Ellison’s generosity.

“Oracle is a huge supporter of the local community through countless programs,” she said. “They do a lot with schools, they donated significantly to our new library in Redwood Shores. They have a very strong giving program.” 

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

Fat wallets

Who has the most bucks?

The 10 richest Americans
Rank – Name – Net worth in billions
1 Bill Gates $57.0
2 Warren Buffett $50.0
3 Larry Ellison $27.0
4 Jim Walton $23.4
5 S. Robson Walton $23.3
6 Alice Walton $23.2
 Christy Walton and family $23.2
8 Michael Bloomberg $20.0
9 Charles Koch $19.0
 David Koch $19.0

The 10 richest Americans from the Bay Area
3 Larry Ellison $27.0
13 Sergey Brin $15.9
14 Larry Page $15.8
55 Charles Schwab $6.2
57 George Roberts $6.0
59 Eric Schmidt $5.9
61 Steve Jobs $5.7
62 Riley Bechtel $5.5
62 Stephen Bechtel Jr. $5.5
74 Charles Johnson $4.9

Source: Forbes magazine

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