NEW YORK, OCT. 8 -- Take heart all you homeowners, layoff victims, junk bond investors and uninsured S&L depositors: The richest people in America also are feeling a lot poorer this year.
From debt-dogged Donald J. Trump, to financial felon Michael R. Milken, to the elite barons of telecommunications and cable TV, fortunes of the wealthiest declined dramatically this year, Forbes magazine says.
Fifty-three of the Forbes 400 list suffered declines in net worth ranging from $100 million to $880 million, the magazine said in its Oct. 22 edition, released today.
For the first time since Forbes began its list in 1982, the minimum net worth required to join the elite ranking dropped, from $275 million in 1989 to $260 million this year.
Some names such as Trump's were evicted, another symbolic boot to the 1980s era of living on borrowed money. Forbes said Trump's fortune, estimated at $1.7 billion in 1989, was possibly within "hailing distance of zero" because of looming loans and a slow economy.
That's not to say the wealthiest are hurting unbearably. The estimated worth of the Forbes 400 totals $272.5 billion -- more than enough to erase the budget deficit tormenting Congress and have enough left over to finance Operation Desert Shield in the Persian Gulf for years.
The total figure is actually up $3.5 billion over last year's total, but the magazine said that is due to its discovery of previously hidden sources of wealth among some members of the list.
Forty-three names were added to the list this year, meaning 43 old names came off. Six died, including the magazine's own namesake, Malcolm S. Forbes. The fortunes of 35 fell too far to be included.
As in 1989, the richest person on the list was John Werner Kluge, 76, of Virginia, thrice-married entertainment entrepreneur who made his $5.6 billion fortune by building up Metromedia Co., a wide-ranging telecommunications company.
No. 2 is Omaha investor Warren Buffett, 60, who bought his first stock at age 11 and parlayed a savvy for stocks into a $3.3 billion fortune.
Third is debt-financed takeover specialist Ronald O. Perelman, 47, a Wharton business school alumnus who borrowed money to build an empire that ranges from the Revlon cosmetics company to Coleman camping products to savings & loans. Forbes pegged his worth at $2.87 billion.
Others among the richest of the 400 names: real estate-industrial magnate Henry L. Hillman, 71, worth $2.65 billion; Cox newspaper heiress siblings Anne Cox Chambers, 70, and Barbara Cox Anthony, 67, worth $2.6 billion each.
Katharine Graham, chairman of the board of The Washington Post Co. was ranked No. 259, worth $370 million. Her son, Donald E. Graham, the newspaper's publisher, was ranked No. 400 with a net worth of $260 million.
Also notable were the people whose net worth tumbled. The biggest victim was Sumner Murray Redstone, owner of the entertainment giant Viacom International Inc., whose fortune dropped from $2.88 billion to $2 billion. Others included publishing-entertainment baron Rupert Murdoch, whose fortune fell by $600 million to $1.1 billion; cable TV mogul Ted Turner, whose worth fell $460 million to $1.3 billion; and convicted Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. junk bond pioneer Milken, whose worth plunged by $570 million to $700 million.