10 Top richest people in technology

1. Bill Gates (Microsoft)
$57 billion

Software visionary stepped down from day-to-day duties at Microsoft in June to devote his talents and riches to philanthropy. The $36 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donates to causes such as fighting hunger in developing countries, improving education in America’s high schools and developing vaccines against malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. Appointed Office veteran Jeffrey Raikes chief exec of Gates Foundation in September. Gates remains Microsoft chairman.

2. Larry Ellison (Oracle)
$27 billion

Database titan continues to buy up would-be competition; more than 40 acquisitions in the past 4 years. Bought BEA Systems for $8.5 billion in January. Revenues up 25% to $22.4 billion this year; profits up 29% to $5.5 billion. Stock down 12% in past 12 months. Invested $125 million in Web software outfit Netsuite; took public in December, stock promptly dropped 30%. His shares still worth $500 million.

3. Michael Dell (Dell)
$17.3 billion

Computer king returned to chief executive post at his computer outfit last year; stock down 18% since. Plunging margins and higher marketing costs pushed second-quarter profits down 17%. Still believes in PCs; has bought $200 million worth of Dell stock since July. Launched service centers in Wal-Mart to compete with Best Buy.

4. Paul Allen (Microsoft)
$16 billion

Washington State dropout founded Microsoft with school chum Bill Gates in 1975. Left Microsoft in 1983 after Hodgkin’s disease diagnosis. Sold off much of his stake to lose huge sums on far-off visions through holding company Vulcan. Microsoft still makes up 20% of his fortune; shares down 29% since October highs amid botched buyout attempt of Yahoo, worries company can’t compete with. Stake in cable outfit Charter down 45% since May.

5. Sergey Brin (Google), $15.9 billion

The battle for tech dominance continues. Last month the Google Guys took the fight to Microsoft with the launch of Web browser Chrome; attempting to steal some of Internet Explorer’s 75% market share. Brin emigrated from Russia. Professor’s son met partner Larry Page in computer science Ph.D. program at Stanford. Duo dropped out in 1998 to start Google from friend’s garage.

6. Larry Page (Google)
$15.8 billion

The battle for tech dominance continues. Last month the Google Guys took the fight to Microsoft with the launch of Web browser Chrome; attempting to steal some of Internet Explorer’s 75% market share. Page raised in Michigan. Initial financing came from angel investors K. Ram Shriram, Andy von Bechtolsheim, professor David Cheriton; then superstar venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital pitched in $25 million.

7. Steven Ballmer (Microsoft)
$15 billion

Microsoft chief attempted to take over Yahoo for $44.6 billion in February; attempt to compete with Google on search backfired after 6-month slugfest—featuring nasty Carl Icahn proxy fight—yielded no deal, sluggish stock price. Worse: Yahoo struck ad deal with Google soon after. Gaining some traction in online advertising; ranked first in display ads this June. Sales up 18% to $60 billion in 2007; net profits rose 26%.

8. Jeff Bezos (Amazon)
$8.7 billion

Quit Wall Street and hedge funds before 30th birthday to sell books online from Seattle garage with wife. Amazon.com public 1997; survived tech bust with discount prices, free shipping. World’s biggest virtual mall revolutionized shopping; today sells everything from books and toys to computers and apparel. Sales close to $15 billion this year. Stock down 18% since January. Recently acquired Fabric.com and AbeBooks.

9. Rupert Murdoch (News Corp.)
$6.8 billion

Australia-born tabloid titan welcomed Dow Jones and its crown jewel, the Wall Street Journal, into News Corp. empire in December after $5.6 billion all-cash takeover. Plans to challenge the New York Times on political coverage while expanding business news and analysis on the Web to establish the Journal as dominant national media outlet. So far market unimpressed: Stock down 34% in 12 months, erasing $2 billion from his net worth. Despite success of Fox News channel, Fox Business Network, available in 35 million homes, slow to gain audience since October debut.

10. Pierre Omidyar (eBay)
$6.3 billion

French-born immigrant launched online auction titan Ebay 1995. Computer programmer handed exec control to Meg Whitman 3 years later, remains chairman. Buy-and-trade giant weathered Internet boom and bust with loyal customers; today boasts 84 million users. Shares down 43% since last October.

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