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A burgeoning billionaires' club

NEW YORK -- The billionaires' club may not be as exclusive as it once was.

There are now 313 US billionaires, the most ever and a huge jump over last year's 262, according to Forbes magazine, which yesterday released its annual ranking of the 400 richest Americans.

Still on top: Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose $48 billion was up $2 billion from 2003.

He was again followed by investor Warren Buffett with $41 billion, the biggest gainer with a $5 billion jump.

The only change in the top 10: Dell Computer's Michael Dell and Oracle's Lawrence Ellison, now ninth and 10th, respectively, swapping places from 2003.

There were 45 new names, including Google's Sergey Brin and Larry E. Page, tied at 43 with $4 billion each. Disney's Michael Eisner and 53 others left the list.

Massachusetts names included Abigail Johnson (ranked 12, $12 billion, Fidelity Investments); Edward C. Johnson III (ranked 28, $6 billion, Fidelity); John Abele, (ranked 36, $4.5 billion, Boston Scientific); Peter Nicholas (ranked 49, $3.8 billion, Boston Scientific); Amos Hostetter (ranked 102, $2.1 billion, Continental Cablevision); Thomas Flatley (ranked 234, $1.2 billion, real estate); Richard Egan (ranked 260, $1.1 billion, EMC Corp.); Amar Bose (ranked 278, $1 billion, Bose); Edward Watkins III (ranked 327, $950 million, security systems); Paul Fireman (ranked 362, $830 million, Reebok).

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