The Forbes 400 regained lost ground in 2010, while most were still smarting from the recession.
It has been a year of reclamation for America's richest. The total worth of the Forbes 400 was up 8% to $1.37 trillion, well out-earning the 1% rise in the S&P over the same period of time. More than half (217) are richer than they were a year ago.
The headline number tells a partial story. Just over one-third of the 400 failed to add to their fortunes or lost ground. Still far above us is the record of $1.57 trillion in total net worth set in 2008.
But the very top of the list gained, as good friends Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were up $4 billion and $5 billion, respectively. They, too, are short of their personal highs. Gates, who in March lost his title of world's richest person to Mexico's Carlos Slim, is still America's richest person for the 17th year in a row.
Las Vegas gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson was the kid, or "comeback adolescent," as he calls himself. "I'm too old to be a kid," he told Forbes. The largest shareholder of Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS - News) is the year's biggest dollar gainer. His casino's shares are up 1,500% since their 2009 low. Adelson is now the 13th richest American, worth $14.7 billion, up $5.7 billion from last year though nowhere close to his $28 billion net worth in 2007, when he ranked third among Americans.
The biggest gainer in percentage terms is Mark Zuckerberg, who more than tripled his fortune to $6.9 billion. The more conservative private valuation of Facebook is now around $23 billion; illiquid shares in the secondary markets point to an even richer valuation. Two of his cofounders are in the ranks for the first time: Eduardo Saverin and Dustin Moskovitz, both classmates of Zuckerberg's at Harvard. Moskovitz, who is eight days younger than Zuckerberg, now has bragging rights as the world's youngest billionaire. The Facebook cofounders are among 16 newcomers on this year's list. Other notables include Dean Metropoulos, whose private equity firm recently bought Pabst Brewing; Terrence Pegula, who sold his Pennsylvania mining outfit to Royal Dutch Shell (Nasdaq: RDSA - News) for $4.7 billion in May; and Elaine Wynn, whose divorce from casino magnate Steve Wynn was finalized in January.
The price of admission to the 400 is back up to the $1 billion mark. Last year it was $950 million, the first time since 2005 it had fallen below 10 figures. The most notable of the 18 returnees is Ford Motor (NYSE: F - News) scion William Ford Sr., who made the cut after a four-year absence as the automobile company's stock hit five-year highs.
Thirty-four people fell from the ranks, a number of whom just barely missed the cut. At least two saw their fortunes unravel. Tamir Sapir, a former taxi driver who built a real estate fortune, owes at least $340 million for nonpayment of loans, his creditors say. He may be suffering from deteriorating mental condition. Hedge fund chief Raj Rajaratnam faces insider trading charges.
Nine of the drop-offs fell off the list permanently. John Kluge passed away this summer. He was America's richest man from 1989 to 1991, before losing the title to Bill Gates. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died in July just after his 80th birthday.
Our estimates of public fortunes are a snapshot of wealth on Aug. 25, 2010, the date we locked in net worths and rankings. We have not included dispersed fortunes (as in those of the Du Ponts) when individual net worths are below our minimum. But we do include wealth belonging to a member's immediate relatives if the wealth can ultimately be traced to one living individual; in that case, "& family" indicates that the number shown includes money belonging to more than one person.
1. Bill Gates
Net Worth: $54 billion
Residence: Medina, Wash.
The software king is not the world's richest man but that's because he is the most generous person on the planet: To date he has cut checks totaling $28 billion. (Even so, Gates is still America's richest person, topping The Forbes 400 for the 17th straight year.) Most of his donations have passed through his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which now has a $33 billion endowment, including contributions from his buddy and bridge partner Warren Buffett. The foundation has given money for the prevention of 5 million deaths from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis; now it's undertaking the eradication of polio. It is also fighting hunger by helping 400,000 farmers in Asia and Africa with rice varieties that resist cold, flooding and drought, and by giving 100,000 farmers on those two continents access to small-scale and cheap irrigation systems. As the foundation accelerates, Microsoft is stuck in neutral. Gates' stake in the company he cofounded is now worth $16 billion; its stock is flat over the last year, despite the release of a new Windows operating system and heavy investments in online advertising and games. Gates regularly sells shares in the software giant, pouring proceeds into investment outfit Cascade, which accounts for 70% of his wealth. Other investments include trash-collector Republic Services, investment firm Gamco, AutoNation and an inflation-hedging fund. [Ed. note: Gates is not the richest man in America. He is far behind David Rockefeller, Sr. and Jr., John D. Rockefeller IV,
2. Warren Buffett
Net Worth: $45 billion
Source: Berkshire Hathaway
Residence: Omaha, Neb.
Along with bridge partner Bill Gates, the Oracle of Omaha is coaxing America's richest to pledge half their fortunes to charity. "You keep making the list, I'll keep milking it." Buffett plans to give away 99% of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Buffett children, and it all has to be spent 10 years after he's gone. "Too often a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner. The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse and long-standing friends." Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway continues its capital stewardship excellence, beating the S&P by 15 percentage points over the past 12 months. Secret to success: emotional stability. "When you come to a conclusion, you have to really not care what other people say." Buffett faked breathing problems when he was 12 so he could move back to Omaha from Washington, D.C., where his father was a freshman congressman. He had read every book about investing in stocks in the Omaha Public Library by the time he was 12. He met value investor Benjamin Graham at Columbia; bought textile firm Berkshire Hathaway 1965, and transformed it into massive holding company: food, insurance, utilities, industrials. Buffett acquired railroad giant Burlington Northern Santa Fe for $26 billion in 2009.
3. Larry Ellison
Net Worth: $27 billion
Residence: Woodside, Calif.
The Oracle chief brazenly chastised Hewlett-Packard for ousting its former head Mark Hurd over his relationship with a marketing contractor. Then he turned around and hired Hurd weeks later to replace Oracle's co-president, Charles Phillips, who resigned at the same time. HP sued Hurd, prompting Ellison to say that HP was making it "virtually impossible" for the 2 companies to do business together. (The two parties recently settled). Oracle, which has acquired 66 companies over the years, figured out a way to turn a profit on its latest big buy, Sun Microsystems, in 2010. One of the highest-paid executives in the country, Ellison has gotten $960 million in compensation in the past 5 fiscal years, mostly from the exercise of stock options; he recently cut his salary to $1. Ellison's fortune is almost entirely tied up in Oracle; he also owns a $580 million stake in Web business-software outfit Netsuite and is one of the largest private land owners in celebrity haven Malibu, Calif. Ellison has 2 houses in the Bay Area: Japanese-style compound in Silicon Valley and bay-view mansion in San Francisco. An avid yachtsman, Ellison spent a decade and over $100 million on his quest for the America's Cup, which he finally won in February. He beat his Swiss rival Ernesto Bertarelli, thanks in part to a trimaran with a rigid main sail longer than a Boeing 747's wingspan. Now he's deciding where to take the next Cup, said to favor backyard, in San Francisco. He intends to give 95% of wealth to charity.
4. Christy Walton & Family
Net Worth: $24 billion
Residence: Jackson, Wy.
The widow of John Walton inherited her wealth after the former Green Beret and Vietnam war medic died in an airplane accident near his home in Wyoming 2005. She got an extra bump in her fortune because of her late husband's early investment in First Solar; shares up more than 400% since 2006 initial public offering. But bulk still comes from her shares in Wal-Mart, the retailer founded by her father-in-law Sam Walton and his brother James in 1962. Today Wal-Mart has sales of $405 billion, and employs more than 2.0 million people. The philanthropist supports museums, education and organic gardening.
5. Charles Koch (tie)
Net Worth: $21.5 billion
Source: manufacturing, energy
Residence: Wichita, Kan.
Since inheriting control of the refining business of his dad, Frederick, in 1967, Charles Koch has expanded the Wichita conglomerate more than 100-fold to $100 billion in revenues; it is now the second-largest private company in the U.S. behind Cargill. Biggest deal to date: The $21 billion purchase of building-products maker Georgia Pacific right before the housing market crashed. Charles and brother David bought out sibs Frederick and William for $790 million in 1983. Each year Charles and David reinvest 90% of profits in the business, with enough left to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into their pet charities and causes, a mix of libertarian think tanks and New York City arts institutions. Most recently they angered California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger by giving $1 million to help efforts to overturn the state's climate change regulations.
5. David Koch (tie)
Net Worth: $21.5 billion
Source: manufacturing, energy
Residence: New York, N.Y.
More gregarious than his brother Charles, David Koch may have made his shrewdest decision in 1983 when he kept his stock in Koch Industries instead of selling out like his brothers William and Frederick, who got about $790 million for their stakes. Since then the company has expanded rapidly and now is worth more than $50 billion; it has interests in pipelines, refineries, Lycra, Dixie Cups. David, who was the Libertarian Party's candidate for vice president in 1980, restricts his political activities now mostly to supporting conservative think tanks and activist organizations. Most recently he and Charles angered California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger by giving $1 million to help efforts to overturn the state's climate change regulations. From his home base in New York City he runs Koch's chemical technology group. He and his wife, Julia, are also active on the charity circuit and have given or pledged $600 million, mostly to cancer research and the arts since 2000; he sits on 26 nonprofit boards.
7. Jim Walton
Net Worth: $20.1 billion
Residence: Bentonville, Ark.
Jim is currently chairman and chief executive of family's Arvest Bank; also chairs local newspaper company Community Publishers. Sam Walton's youngest son has served on Wal-Mart's board of directors since brother John's death in 2005. While Wal-Mart's shares are nearly flat over the past year, the 3 children of the founder collected $1.2 billion in dividends. A former clerk, Sam Walton (d.1992) founded Bentonville store with brother James 1962; today Wal-Mart has sales of $405 billion, employs more than 2.1 million people.
8. Alice Walton
Net Worth: $20 billion
Residence: Fort Worth, Texas
Alice is building Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. The daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton (d. 1992), she was an equity analyst after college and later formed investment bank Llama Co. and led the creation of Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. While Wal-Mart's shares are nearly flat over the past year, the 3 children of the founder collected $1.2 billion in dividends. A former clerk, Sam Walton (d.1992) founded Bentonville store with brother James 1962; today Wal-Mart has sales of $405 billion, employs more than 2.1 million people. The horse lover also runs Texas' Rocking W Ranch.
9. S. Robson Walton
Net Worth: $19.7 billion
Residence: Bentonville, Ark.
S. Robson has been chairman of Wal-Mart since his father's death in 1992. Columbia Law grad joined Wal-Mart in 1969. Positions held: senior vice president, secretary and general counsel, and vice chairman. Today Wal-Mart has sales of $405 billion, employs more than 2.1 million people. While its shares are nearly flat over past year, the 3 children of the founder collected $1.2 billion in dividends.
10. Michael Bloomberg
Net Worth: $18 billion
Source: Bloomberg LP
Residence: New York, N.Y.
America's richest politician Michael Bloomberg's campaign spending record of $109 million was just surpassed by Meg Whitman in September. He is serving his third term, set to expire in 2013, after successfully campaigning for extended term limits in 2008. The Boston-born son of a Russian immigrant accountant is registered as an Independent, but he is a social liberal; in a recent address, he said: "I'm pro-choice. I'm pro-gay rights. I'm pro-immigration, I'm pro-gun control. I believe in Darwin." Outside of politics, Mayor Mike owns an 88% stake in Bloomberg LP, the data analytics firm he founded in 1982 after being fired from Salomon Brothers ("Living well is the best revenge," he recently said of his multi-billion dollar turnaround). While other financial media firms have been cutting jobs and selling titles, Bloomberg is on a growth spurt. Firm, which operates about 290,000 data terminals, has increased its employee head count by 25% over the last three years; picked up BusinessWeek for less than $5 million. Overall revenues are up an estimated 10% this year to $6.9 billion, thanks in part to the company's expansion into the legal data field. Bloomberg has given over $1.4 billion to charities over the years; causes include anti-smoking, public health and the arts. In a letter accompanying his pledge to donate the bulk of his net worth along with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and other billionaires, he explained why he chooses to give money now rather than bequeath his fortune: "Why wait? Why deny financial aid to this generation? Why deny a possible cure for a disease to this generation?"
11. Sergey Brin (tie)
Net Worth: $15 billion
Residence: San Francisco, Calif.
Google cofounder Sergey Brin saw company stock dip slightly over the past year amid renewed onslaught from Microsoft. Feeling pressure as Internet ad sector matures. Brin focuses on raising margins with Instant Search and building new businesses in communications. He emigrated from Russia at age 6. Son and grandson of mathematicians on his father's side, mother was a research scientist at NASA. He met co-founder Larry Page in computer science Ph.D. program at Stanford and dropped out in 1998 to start Google from a friend's garage. The two share a 767 jet. Brin is also an investor in Airship Ventures and private space travel company Space Adventures. Brin has become a benefactor for research into Parkinson's disease, after finding out he has a genetic mutation increasing the odds he'll get it. (His wife, Anne Wojcicki, is the cofounder of personal genetics company 23andMe, through which he learned of his condition). Brin practices diving, yoga and acrobatics to lower odds he'll develop the disease.
11. Larry Page (tie)
Net Worth: $15 billion
Residence: Palo Alto, Calif.
One of the great examples of the Silicon Valley wealth aspiration, Larry Page is turning life into a science fair. His personal passions include buying up chunks of residential Palo Alto for a network of houses that use new types of fuel cells, geothermal energy, and rainwater capture. He also rides a Zero X electric dirt bike and an electric sports car from Tesla Motors, in which he and Google co-founder Sergey Brin are investors. Page is a longtime investor in solar and geothermal companies, and board member of the X Prize Foundation, a nonprofit looking for breakthroughs in genomics, energy, and space exploration. He's often seen at Singularity University, where futurists contemplate a world where machines have human-level intelligence. Meanwhile back at his job, Page is known inside the search firm for making obscure comments about technology that later prove prophetic. He pays himself $1-a-year salary. In college he built a printer from Lego blocks. The colorful plastic is an inspiration for the colors in Google's logo. He met Brin in computer science Ph.D. program at Stanford and dropped out in 1998 to start Google from a friend's garage. He kiteboards for fun.
13. Sheldon Adelson
Net Worth: $14.7 billion
Source: Casinos, hotels
Residence: Las Vegas, Nev.
Sin City's richest man is making a comeback; shares of his Las Vegas Sands casino outfit up more than 1,500% since their 2009 low. His fortune is up $5.7 billion, making him the year's biggest dollar gainer, though his fortune is still far below his 2007 record of $28 billion when he ranked third in the U.S. "I'm too old to be a kid, so call me the 'comeback adolescent." His goal is to get LVS's market cap back to $52 billion and sees Asian casinos as the way to get there. This April, he opened his $5.7 billion Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Cabdriver's son borrowed $200 from uncle to sell newspapers at age 12. Studied voice in teens, later dropped out of City College in New York City to become court reporter. Made first fortune in trade shows. Created computer industry's marquee event, Comdex, mid-1980s; sold show to Japan's Softbank for $862 million 1995.
14. George Soros
Net Worth: $14.2 billion
Residence: Westchester County, N.Y.
America's wealthiest hedge fund manager has been cashing out of U.S. equities lately and moving into gold, holding the equivalent of 16 tons of the stuff through a gold exchange-traded fund. Another big investment: liberal causes. Through his $2 billion Open Society Institute, Soros pledged $100 million to Human Rights Watch in September, in part to counteract America's loss of the "moral high ground." He also gave $50 million to the Robin Hood Foundation, a favorite of Wall Street types. The prolific philanthropist has given away more than $8 billion since 1979. Now the Hungarian immigrant is looking to Asia; he bought 4% of the Bombay Stock Exchange in August. Soros founded the predecessor to his Quantum Fund in 1969, later bringing in Jim Rogers, and he reportedly made $1 billion shorting the British pound with Stanley Druckenmiller in 1992. He locked out new investors in 2000; much of Quantum Endowment Fund's $20 billion in assets are said to be his.
15. Michael Dell
Net Worth: $14 billion
Residence: Austin, Texas
Michael Dell's computer firm is in the middle of a turnaround; in September Dell overtook Acer to regain its number 2 rank in global PC market share (HP is number 1). It lost its bidding war for storage system 3Par to HP in August. It completed purchase of Perot Systems for roughly $3.9 billion in November 2009. Dell started selling computers from college dorm room in 1984; took Dell public in 1988. He stepped down as CEO in 2004 but returned to the post in 2007. Since then the stock is down 50%. In February his personal investment firm MSD Capital bought photo agency Magnum's back catalog. He and wife Susan support anti-childhood-obesity campaigns (she is a triathlete).
16. Steve Ballmer
Net Worth: $13.1 billion
Residence: Seattle, Wash.
Released last October, the new version of Windows OS is selling at the rate of 7 copies per second; it's already on 16% of PCs. But consumer failures grab headlines: The Kin phone was pulled off shelves in weeks. Still, the search engine Bing, launched in May 2009, now has a 13% share. Microsoft stock has been lackluster over past 12 months, losing most valuable U.S. company title to Apple. Since Ballmer took over as chief executive of Microsoft in January 2000, the software giant's market cap is down by half. It's been flat over the past five years. Detroit native dropped out of Stanford M.B.A. program to join Harvard classmate Bill Gates 1980 as employee number 30.
17. Paul Allen
Net Worth: $12.7 billion
Source: Microsoft, investments
Residence: Mercer Island, Wash.
The Microsoft cofounder has recently sued half of Silicon Valley. His Interval Research Corp. filed patent-infringement complaints against Apple, eBay, Facebook, Yahoo, Google and others. He left Microsoft in 1983 after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. His holding company Vulcan invests in tech ventures: space travel, artificial intelligence. Owns the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, NBA's Portland Trailblazers.
18. Jeff Bezos
Net Worth: $12.6 billion
Residence: Seattle, Wash.
Dot-com pioneer Jeff Bezos is constantly looking for ways to reinvent his business. Already the world's largest online bookshop, Amazon is now also the world's biggest online retailer, with net sales of $24.5 billion in 2009. Its Kindle e-reader has been its bestselling item for the last two years. In fact, in May, June and July of this year, Amazon sold 143 e-books for every 100 paper copies. (In July late Swedish author Stieg Larsson became first to sell 1 million books on Kindle). It now also operates online shoe retailer Zappos, which it bought in July 2009 for $1.2 billion in cash and stock. Amazon stock up just over 30% in past year; Bezos' shares account for 90% of his net worth. Has sold $400 million worth of Amazon shares since the start of the year. Company paid Bezos base salary of just $81,840 in 2009 but spent $1.7 million on his security; a spokesperson declined to explain why the additional security was necessary or what it entailed. Bezos funds aerospace company Blue Origin, which is developing spacecraft in West Texas; currently building a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing rocket. Blue Origin's website says it intends its rocket to take astronauts, researchers, and the public into space.
19. Anne Cox Chambers
Net Worth: $12.5 billion
Residence: Atlanta, Ga.
Media heiress Anne Cox Chambers celebrated her 90th birthday last winter by visiting the Jacksonburg, Ohio farm where she grew up. She's the daughter of Cox Enterprises founder James M. Cox (d. 1957), who finished high school at 17 and worked as a schoolteacher and newspaper reporter before paying $26,000 for the Dayton Evening News in 1898. Cox Enterprises now includes Cox Communications cable company, Cox Media Group (newspapers, TV and radio stations), Manheim (car auction) and AutoTrader.com. Her nephew Jim Kennedy is chairman of the $15 billion (sales) company. Ambassador to Belgium under Jimmy Carter, Chambers holds the French Legion of Honor title. The long-time arts patron has a wing at Atlanta's High Museum of Art named after her.
20. John Paulson
Net Worth: $12.4 billion
Source: hedge funds
Residence: New York, N.Y.
Paulson made $3.5 billion in 2007 shorting stocks of companies that sold subprime mortgages to those with less-than-perfect credit. Now he's betting on gold: His fund recently bought a 9% stake in NovaGold Resources and is one of the largest holders of gold exchange-traded funds. Paulson's bet against subprime referenced in SEC suit against Goldman Sachs. Two months later his Paulson & Co. bought shares in the firm; he's also been investing in gaming outfits like Harrah's and MGM. He got his start at Odyssey Partners, a private equity and hedge fund and later became managing director of M&A at Bear Stearns. He founded Paulson & Co in 1994. The tycoon currently owns a 10.4-acre estate on Southampton's Lake Agawam. http://www.forbes.com/wealth/forbes-400/gallery/donald-bren?partner=yahoo
The Richest People in America
The Forbes 400 List: 2010
While 2010 has seen the vast majority of the US population suffer the consequences of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depressionmass joblessness, wage cutting, plummeting home prices, record foreclosures, and spending cuts by near-bankrupt states and citiesfor the handful of plutocrats who control the nations wealth it has been a very good year indeed.
According to Forbes magazine, the net worth of the 400 richest Americans increased by 8 percent in 2010, to $1.37 trillion, in the year ending August 25. The figure is slightly greater than the entire gross domestic product of India, population 1.2 billion. It is also more than 10 times greater than the $121 billion combined budget deficit of all 50 states for 2011.
The household wealth for the great majority is going in the opposite direction. Last week, the Federal Reserve revealed that the net worth of all US households and non-profits fell 2.8 percent in the second quarter, to $53.5 trillion. This means that the richest 400 Americans have about 2.6 percent of the total national household wealth, the other 310 million splitting the remainder.
Though most Americans have experienced nothing of the recovery touted by the Obama administration, the extremely rich know different. The wealth level to gain admittance to the Forbes 400 club rose this year back to $1 billionafter falling last year to $950 million as the super-rich suffered, in their own particular way, the effects of the financial collapse of 2008.
Year-to-year changes aside, the 2010 list registers a longer-term accumulation of wealth that has been underway for three decades. When Forbes first published the Fortune 400 list in 1982, there were only 12 billionaires in the US, and the richest American, shipbuilding tycoon Daniel Ludwig, had net wealth estimated at $2 billion. Adjusting for inflation, Ludwig would wind up 58th on todays list.
The richest individual in America for the 17th year in a row is Microsoft founder Bill Gates, with a personal fortune estimated at $54 billion ($24 billion in 1982 dollars, 12 times the value of Ludwigs empire that year). Gatess net worth is equivalent to the GDP of Sudan, population 42 million, and is about $7 billion more than the amount earmarked by the US government for the Education Department in the 2010 budget.
Gates is followed once again by Warren Buffett, net worth $45 billion. Buffett has made the list every year since 1982, when he had estimated resources of about $250 million. The intervening years have been good for the Omaha investment tycoon, his wealth increasing by a factor of 180.
As in other recent editions of the Forbes list, the virtual absence of billionaires whose fortunes are derived from manufacturing is striking. One exception is 85-year-old William Ford, Sr., whose net worth of $1 billion brought him back on the list for the first time in several years. Fords wealth increased largely as a result of wage-cutting at his eponymous motor company.
The list offers a glimpse at the socially malignant character of todays ruling elite and its activities. The great majority of the Forbes 400 have derived their staggering fortunes through one or another type of financial operation, such as hedge funds, private equity firms, real estate, technology (mainly through bubble-driven Internet or software ventures), and retail empires.
To be sure, America has always had its robber barons, long associated with names like Vanderbilt, Carnegie and Rockefeller. Though they brutally oppressed their workers, their wealth was derived from the building up of enormous industrial empires. Todays robber barons have instead made their fortunes from the destruction of industry and out-and-out financial swindling unconnected to any productive economic process.
The increased wealth of the Forbes 400 is further evidence that the social crisisfar from giving rise to redistributive or even vaguely reformist policies to alleviate the suffering of the great majorityis being used to further enrich the fabulously wealthy. http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=21177
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Government it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism,
their loyalty to family traditions and national identification" Brock Chisholm - Director of the World Health Organization
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The fact is that "political correctness" is all about creating uniformity. Individualism is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of the New World Order. They want a public that is predictable and conditioned to do as it's told without asking questions.
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