Though investing in this county’s real estate is still a good idea for most, it might be even better to invest in one of its start-up companies. Or better still, start one up yourself.

While six Orange County residents made the new list of Forbes’ 400 richest Americans, only one—-perennial list-maker Don Bren, chairman of megadeveloper and landowner Irvine Co.—-got wealthy through real estate. Four of the other five made it in the high-tech business, while the last one is an oil heiress.

The new Forbes list illustrates how the economy and perhaps even the power structure of Orange County are changing. While real estate scions dominated the list of OC’s richest residents just a few years ago, most of the wealth today is concentrated in the hands of those who set up Internet or other types of high-tech companies here a few years ago and earned a fortune when their firms made their initial public offerings.

The two co-founders of Broadcom Corp. and its Internet operations tied for No. 18 on the Forbes 400 list. Henry T. Nicholas III and Henry Samueli are worth $10 billion each, the magazine says.

Bren is OC’s third-richest. Worth $4 billion, he was ranked No. 61 out of the 400.

Following Bren are two Orange County men making their first-ever appearance on the Forbes 400 list, Vincent C. Smith and David M. Doyle of Newport Beach-based Quest Software Inc.

Smith, who is Quest’s chairman and CEO, is worth $2 billion and ranked No. 129. Doyle, Quest’s president, was tied for No. 372 with Laguna Beach oil heiress Anne Catherine Getty Earhart at $775 million.

As in the past several years, Microsoft Corp. co-founder and Washington resident Bill Gates ranked No. 1. But his wealth has slipped to a mere $63 billion from $85 billion a year ago, as Microsoft stock continues to trade well below its 52-week high. Most of Gates’ wealth is tied up in his company’s shares.

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