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$1.27 Trillion

Forbes recently published an updated list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. Not surprisingly, many of them have lost billions of dollars over the last year or two, but they still have a staggering amount of wealth. The list piqued my statistical curiosity, and led me to the following observations:

Youngest Member – At 25, Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, is 10 years younger than his nearest top-400-er, and is worth $2 billion. That’s approximately $7 per user, which seems a little high to me, but I guess that’s why I’m not a venture capitalist.

Oldest Member – John Kluge, 95, is the king of Metromedia, a telecom/media giant that mostly works outside the U.S. but does operate a group of restaurants here (Bennigan’s, Steak and Ale, Bonanza, & Ponderosa are some). I haven’t eaten at any of these, but John evidently didn’t need any help from me to amass $6.5 billion.

Least Surprising
Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Google execs, etc.

Most Interesting
Jack Crawford, with $7 billion earned from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car company. I know that rental cars cost more than they should, but I didn’t realize I was minting a billionaire 7 times over each time I spent $45/day to rent a car that could be bought for $300/month.

Micky Arison (Carnival Cruises), $4.3 billion, makes a fortune charging people $100/day to eat, sleep and breathe on a boat while hiring 95% of his employees from outside the U.S. so he doesn’t have to worry about pesky things like minimum wage, paying into medicare or social security, offering paid vacation time, or problems arising from requiring a 16+ hour workday. Way to go, Micky!

John Paul DeJoria, who has evidently built up $4 billion in his (FDIC insured?) savings account by dealing in “hair products and tequila”.

Bradley Wayne Hughes has cashed in to the tune of $3.5 billion on the fact that people have 5 or maybe 10 times more plastic, metal, wood, and glass than they need and they will pay somebody for a 5′ x 5′ box (at Public Storage) somewhere in the world in which to keep it safe, and out of sight.

Ty Warner. $3.2 billion. Beanie Babies. ???

Ray Dolby, with $2.6 billion from Dolby Laboratories, seems odd to me. Who hires Dolby, what are they hired to do, and how is it so profitable?

Henry Hillman, at 90 years old, has accumulated $2.1 billion dollars over his long life. With the number of people on this list who got their money from “leveraged buyouts” (17), “inheritance” (17), and “hedge funds” (25), I think Henry sounds downright honorable coming in as an old-school, hard-working “industrialist.”

People on the list who work in “healthcare” (1) or “pharmaceuticals” (3). It gives me heartburn to think about how much money they have accumulated while being either in the business of offering “coverage” and simultaneously minimizing the amount of coverage they actually pay or in the business of developing and selling pills. I would go see a doctor and get a prescription for my heartburn, but, well, it just seems a bit circular.

Stephen Bisciotti has earned himself $1.5 billion and a place on the list from, literally, “outsourcing”. Sounds a bit un-American to me, but at least he keeps some of that money in the States in the form of the Baltimore Ravens football franchise. Perhaps if he kept more of it here, they would be able to put together a solid playoff run?

S. Daniel Abraham is the man (the $1.4 billion dollar man) for getting people to pay more for less (Slim-Fast).

Christopher Goldsbury is someone I would like as my mentor; perhaps he could show me how to make $1.1 billion from “salsa”. (Pace Salsa)

John Orin Edson is also my hero for rebuilding a small boat, sailing around Lake Washington, and consequently starting the Bayliner boat company and saving up $1 billion.

Inheritors – Wal Mart and Campbell’s Soup have each added 5+ people to the billionaire column. This is especially staggering in the case of Campbell’s. They sell soup! In a can! And make billions!?!?

Michael Bloomberg – He’s #8 on the list, worth $17.5 billion, and still finds time to manage the largest city in the U.S.

Various Sports Team Owners – Owners of the Orlando Magic, Washington Nationals, Dallas Cowboys, NE Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Astros, NY Yankees, Washington Redskins, and Philadelphia Eagles all make a convincing argument that our culture values entertainment a lot. Probably too much. Each of these owners are billionaires (although I don’t think they all became billionaires solely from the NFL).

Important Stats

Just over 20% (83 out of 400) of these people live in CA. 63 live in New York (and 80 in NY/NJ/CT). Although 41 states are represented on the list, 12 of the richest Americans don’t live in the U.S. any more. The least wealthy person on the list (Sam Wyly of Dallas, TX) rings in at $950 million, reminding you that if you’ve made your first million, you’re going to have to repeat that process nearly 1,000 times to make it on this list.

Finally, if every one of these 400 wealthiest Americans parted ways with 50% of their $1.27 trillion net worth into a common fund, that fund could make a one-time payment of 5% on the U.S. national debt. Awesome.

Personal Testimony

There are at least 36 people on this list that have received significant (to me) amounts of my money in the past. Thanks to Quicken (the owner of Intuit is also a billionaire, and #374 on the list), I can quickly see exactly how much of my money went to these companies and owners since 2002. The results are, well, frightening:

Wal*Mart – $10,722 (ouch – didn’t expect this one to be first on the list)
Progressive – $5,560
Apple – $2,590
Best Buy – $1,680
Amazon – $1,482
DirecTV – $1,340
Home Depot – $1,000
FedEx – $450

So what does it all mean? That will have to be the subject of another post.

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