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Forbes 400 2017: Meet The Richest People In America

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Bill Gates

It was another record year for the wealthiest people in America, as the price of admission to the country’s most exclusive club jumped nearly 18%. The minimum net worth to make The Forbes 400 list of richest Americans is now a record $2 billion, up from $1.7 billion a year ago. The group’s total net worth climbed to $2.7 trillion, up from $2.4 trillion, and the average net worth rose to $6.7 billion, up from $6 billion.

Even at these new heights, entrepreneurs are breaking into the ranks for the first time as they mint fortunes in everything from telecom to booze to fishing. There were 22 newcomers, 14 of whom are self-made entrepreneurs. Among the most notable: Arizona iced tea cofounder Don Vultaggio; Netflix cofounder Reed Hastings; Tito Beveridge, the creator of Tito’s Handmade Vodka; Chuck Bundrant, whose Trident Seafoods sells his fish to places like McDonald’s and Burger King; and Rocco Commisso, founder of cable TV and broadband firm Mediacom and owner of the New York Cosmos, a soccer club based in Brooklyn.

Every person in the top 10 got at least $1 billion richer in the past year.  Number one for the 24th consecutive year is Bill Gates, who is now worth $89 billion, up $8 billion from a year ago. Amazon’s Jeff Bezoswhose fortune rose $14.5 billion in a year, retains the number two spot for the second consecutive year with a net worth of $81.5 billion, while Warren Buffett holds onto the number 3 spot. His net worth increased by $12.5 billion, despite giving away more than $3 billion of Berkshire-Hathaway stock in July. The biggest gainer (in dollar terms) is Facebook’s Mark ZuckerbergHis fortune jumped $15.5 billion, but in a crazy year like this one, it’s only good enough for him to hold onto his ranking as fourth richest.

READ MORE: The Richest People in America List

Gainers (there were 289) since last year’s list outnumbered losers (just 51) by more than five to one.  A strong stock market was the main reason for this record-breaking year. The S&P 500, for instance, was up roughly 17% in the 12 months since the 2016 Forbes 400 list.

The most notable loser was President Donald Trump, whose fortune fell $600 million to $3.1 billion. A tough New York real estate market, particularly for retail locations; a costly lawsuit and an expensive presidential campaign all contributed to the declining fortune of the 45th president.

READ MORE: How Donald Trump’s Fortune Fell $600 Million In One Year

A record 169 billionaires were too poor to make the cut, including well-known figures such as activist investor Nelson Peltz and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. Twenty-six members of the 2016 class fell out of the ranks. Among the most notable dropouts is Under Armour’s Kevin Plank, whose fortune fell to $1.7 billion, down from $3 billion, as the stock price of his sports apparel company unraveled by 60%. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also fell out of the ranks, after filing disclosure forms showing a net worth of less than $1 billion. He told Forbes that he shifted billions to trusts for his family members, but did not provide evidence of having done so.

Our estimates are a snapshot of the fortunes of America’s wealthiest people using stock prices from September 22. Some of The Forbes 400 become richer or poorer within weeks, even days, of publication. We track these changes at forbes.com/forbes-400. That’s where you’ll find more information on list members, as well as photos, videos, and coverage of these influential billionaires.

LIST: Africa’s Billionaires

Methodology: This is the 36th year of the flagship Forbes 400. Though we’ve been at it a long time, it’s always a challenge. Our reporters dig deep. This year we started with a list of more than 600 individuals considered strong candidates. When possible, we met with Forbes 400 members and candidates in person or spoke with them by phone. We also interviewed their employees, handlers, rivals, peers and attorneys. Uncovering their fortunes required us to pore over thousands of SEC documents, court records, probate records and web and print stories. We took into account all types of assets: stakes in public and private companies, real estate, art, yachts, planes, ranches, vineyards, jewelry, car collections and more.

We factored in debt. Of course, we don’t pretend to know what is listed on each billionaire’s private balance sheet, although some candidates did provide paperwork to that effect. Some billionaires presiding over private companies were happy to share their financial figures, but others were less forthcoming. To value the private businesses, we couple revenue or profit estimates with prevailing price-to-revenue or price-to-earnings ratios for similar public companies.

We didn’t include dispersed family fortunes. We did include wealth belonging to a member’s immediate relatives if the wealth could be traced to a single living person. In that case you’ll see “& family.” We also include married couples who built fortunes and businesses together. In those instances, we list both names. The Forbes 400 is a list of American citizens who own assets in the U.S. – Written by By Kerry A. Dolan and Luisa Kroll, FORBES STAFF 

Billionaires

Forbes Billionaires 2018: Meet The Richest People On The Planet

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The gap between the really rich and the merely rich continues to widen, as fortunes soar to new heights. A record 2,208 billionaires made Forbes’ 32 annual ranking of the world’s billionaires. Altogether they are worth a record $9.1 trillion, up 18% from a year ago. The 20 richest people on the planet are worth a staggering $1.2 trillion, a sum roughly equivalent to the annual economic output of Mexico. In aggregate, they may represent less than 1% of total billionaires but their riches amount to 13% of the total fortune of all billionaires worldwide.

Jeff Bezos is the richest person on the planet and the first centi-billionaire atop our annual ranking. Shares of his e-commerce giant Amazon rose 59%  in 12 months, helping boost his fortune by $39.2 billion. It was the biggest one year gain since Forbes started tracking billionaires in 1987. He easily moved ahead of Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, who ceded the top spot for only the sixth time since 1995.

READ MORE: Here’s Why Jeff Bezos Is Not Truly The Richest Man In History

France’s Bernard Arnault had the second best year after Bezos. Record results at his luxury goods empire LVMH and a deal to buy out nearly all of Christian Dior helped boost Arnault’s fortune by $30.5 billion. He is the richest European for the first time since 2012 and number four richest in the world.

Two tech entrepreneurs from mainland China climbed into the top 20 for the first time. Ma Huateng (also known as Pony Ma) is Asia’s wealthiest person, ranked number 17 in the world, thanks in part to his firm Tencent’s WeChat, a ubiquitous social-messaging app with nearly 1 billion active users. Tencent also has stakes in Tesla, Snapchat parent Snap and music-streaming service Spotify. Jack Ma, the 20th richest person, is the chief of another e-commerce giant Alibaba, whose shares increased 76% in a year.

Forbes pinned down 259 newcomers who made their fortunes in everything from tech and aerospace to private aviation and wedding dresses. China has the most new faces with 89, while the U.S. is next with 18. That is helping close the gap between the two nations. Altogether the U.S. has more billionaires than any country in the world with 585, while greater China (mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) has 476.

READ MORE: African Billionaire Fortunes Rise

On this year’s list, the billionaires hail from 72 countries and territories, including the first ever from Hungary and Zimbabwe. One country not represented: Saudi Arabia. Forbes chose to leave off all 10 Saudis given reports of asset seizures after the Saudi Crown Prince detained some 200 people, including some billionaires, some for as long as three months.

While the vast majority of the world’s billionaires added to their fortunes in the past 12 months, 16% had fortunes that slipped. One notable loser was President Donald Trump, whose fortune fell $400 million since March 2017 to a current $3.1 billion. He is now ranked 766 in the world, down from 544.

READ MORE: Donald Trump Drops $400 Million On Forbes Billionaires List

Go here for the full list of all the world’s billionaires.

Methodology

The Forbes World’s Billionaires list is a snapshot of wealth using stock prices and exchange rates from February 9, 2018. Some people will become richer or poorer within weeks—even days—of publication. For example, Jeff Bezos’ net worth climbed more than $12 billion in the two weeks between our measuring date for stock prices and when this issue went to press. We list individuals rather than multigenerational families who share large fortunes, though we include wealth belonging to a billionaire’s spouse and children if that person is the founder of the fortune. In some cases we list siblings or couples together if the ownership breakdown among them isn’t clear, but here an estimated net worth of $1 billion per person is needed to make the cut. We value a variety of assets, including private companies, real estate, art, yachts and more. We don’t pretend to know each billionaire’s private balance sheet (though some provide it). When documentation isn’t supplied or available, we discount fortunes. For daily updates of net worths, go to forbes.com/real-time-billionaires. – Written by 

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Life

The Forbes Five: Hip-Hop’s Wealthiest Artists 2018

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Jay-Z Diddy hip-hop

Last June, when Jay-Z and Beyoncé welcomed twins to their family, they did what many couples do in the wake of a new arrival–move to a bigger home–on quite an epic scale. Over the next few months, they shelled out $26 million for an East Hampton mansion and scooped up an $88 million Bel Air estate, adding 21,000 square feet per newborn. That’s the sort of thing you can do when one partner is a pop demigod and the other is the richest rapper on the planet.

Jay-Z upped his net worth from $810 million to $900 million over the past year, seizing hip-hop’s cash crown for the first time since Forbes started counting back in 2011. The Brooklyn-born mogul’s jump is due mostly to the rising value of his interests in Armand de Brignac champagne and D’Ussé cognac, on top of nine-figure ownership stakes in his Roc Nation empire and Tidal streaming service.

“We always complain about, ‘We don’t own this, we don’t own that.’ … Here he is, this man who owns that,” superproducer Swizz Beatz told me in an interview for my book 3 Kings: Diddy, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Hip-Hop’s Multibillion-Dollar Rise. “The sky is not the limit: it’s just a view.”

Jay-Z, Diddy and Dre are not only the wealthiest hip-hop acts on the planet, but the richest American musicians of any genre. Longtime Forbes Five champ Diddy ranks No. 2 this year despite increasing his fortune slightly in the past 12 months; tepid trends in the vodka and cable TV sectors have affected his interests in Ciroc and Revolt, but heady growth at DeLeón tequila, his joint venture with beverage giant Diageo–and massive annual earnings totals in recent years–have kept his net worth trending in the right direction.

READ MORE: Kendrick Lamar: The Conscious Capitalist

Dre ranks third with $770 million, creeping upward thanks to the market trends boosting his nine-figure windfall from Apple’s $3 billion buyout of Beats in 2014. The superproducer is also in line to receive a slug of Apple stock this summer worth well over $100 million; depending on the tech giant’s share price at the time, he could leapfrog Diddy and Jay-Z when that happens.

After the top three, there’s a long drop before the fourth and fifth names on the list: Drake and Eminem, tied at an even $100 million apiece. The youngest impresario of the bunch, 31-year-old Drake has earned more than $250 million since 2010, before taxes and spending; an equity stake in Virginia Black whiskey and pricey estates in Toronto, Canada, and Hidden Hills, California, pad his holdings. His inclusion on the Forbes Five represents yet another career goal achieved.

“If I’m not on your list this year, I’d be gravely disappointed,” he told Forbes back in 2013. “That’s pretty much my objective every year … other than making good music.”

READ MORE: How DJ Khaled Rolls: Hip-Hop’s Boldest Star Shows Off His Major Keys

Eminem isn’t known as a businessman like some of the other names on this list, but he’s still the best-selling rapper of all time and moved more albums in the U.S. during the 2000s than any act in any genre. Fresh off new album Revival, he makes his Forbes Five debut as former listmember Birdman–Drake’s Cash Money Records boss–slips below the $100 million mark in the wake of some apparent liquidity issues.

To compile the Forbes Five rankings, we follow the same procedures used to calculate our list of the world’s billionaires (our annual update arrives Tuesday): valuing major assets, poring over financial documents, and speaking with analysts, attorneys, managers, other industry players and, in some cases, the moguls themselves.

So who will be the first hip-hop star to reach the billion-dollar mark? Trends in the spirits world could continue to play a key role for Jay-Z and Diddy. After the furious rise of vodka in the first part of this decade, fueled largely by flavored variants like those of Ciroc, the market has shifted towards cognac, whiskey and tequila.

“D’Ussé fits right in there,” says Eric Schmidt, Director of Alcohol Research at Beverage Marketing Corporation. “I think DeLeón is poised for growth … it could one day be the next Patrón, but it’s a long road.”

Jay-Z, meanwhile, shouldn’t be slacking off anytime soon: though he and Beyoncé bought their East Hampton abode outright, according to public records, their $88 million Bel Air mansion comes with a $52.8 million mortgage. – Written by 

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Lists

Forbes’ First List Of Cryptocurrency’s Richest People: Meet The Secretive Freaks, Geeks And Visionaries

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Bitcoin cryptocurrency

In the world of cryptocurrency, where billion-dollar fortunes can be made overnight, speed is everything — and CZ is the fastest of them all. From closet-size offices in Tokyo — “I would touch four people if I turned around in a circle”— the 41-year-old Chinese-Canadian coder runs Binance, a cryptocurrency exchange that has gone from a standing start to the largest on the planet in just under 180 days. CZ (born Changpeng Zhao) cut his teeth making high-frequency trading systems for Wall Street’s flash boys, and he built Binance to be a Ferrari. His exchange can process a blazing 1. 4 million transactions a second and on a peak trading day in January processed 3.5 billion new orders, cancels and trades. Speculators (some 25% of them from the U.S.) use Binance to trade 120 different coins, generating $200 million in profits for CZ’s exchange last quarter. BNB, the virtual coin CZ created in August that gives holders a 50% discount on trading fees, has a market cap of $1.3 billion. His stake in Binance and his coins give CZ a personal fortune worth as much as $2 billion.

He is hardly alone in becoming insanely and instantly rich from crypto. Chris Larsen, a longtime tech exec known for cofounding a string of fintech apps, saw his net worth flirt with $20 billion at the height of cryptomania in early January, based on his ownership of 5.2 billion XRP, the tokens of Ripple, the company he founded. XRP has since crashed 65%, but Larsen still tops Forbes’ first crypto rich list, our (necessarily inexact) accounting of the 20 wealthiest people in crypto.

There are now nearly 1,500 crypto-assets in existence, valued at an aggregate of $550 billion, up 31 times since the beginning of 2017. While the prices of individual cryptocoins continue to swing wildly — Bitcoin is down almost 50% from its peak — it’s clear that blockchain-based currency is here to stay and that these virtual assets have real, albeit volatile and speculative, value. Black-market transactions, tax avoidance by individuals and sanctions-dodging by countries like North Korea fuel part of the demand, but so does a widespread excitement over the technology and an ideological desire for money to be free from the whimsies of nation-states.

READ MORE: Bitcoin, Blockchain And Billions

The winners of this digital lottery differ from those in previous manias. The shadowy beginnings, at once anarchistic, utopian and libertarian, drew an odd lot of pioneers who ranged from anti-establishment cypherpunks and electricity-guzzling “miners” to prescient Silicon Valley financiers and a larger-than-usual assortment of the just plain lucky “hodlers” (the typo-inspired crypto jargon for “buy and hold” investors). As in any gold rush, selling the pans and pickaxes – in this case running exchanges – is proving a more reliable path to riches than speculation. And, of course, easy money — especially if it’s viewed as a bearer asset — attracts scam artists and thieves.

Banking heir Matthew Mellon, whose $2 million investment in XRP blossomed into some $1 billion, learned that firsthand in January. The morning after a big bash, the 54-year-old recent divorcé says he discovered four people rooting around his $150,000-a-month Los Angeles party pad. (He didn’t report it to the police.) The unwanted guests were probably after his XRP and they stole four laptops and two cellphones. They didn’t get Mellon’s crypto-fortune — anyone with enough assets to make our list long ago figured out how to secure it. (Sorry, thugs.) In Mellon’s case, the private keys are divided up and safely scattered in cold storage around the country in other people’s names. But the incident underscores the weirdness that separates cryptomania from bubbles past.

Identifying the biggest crypto winners and estimating the scale of their wealth is no simple task. The virtual currencies exist almost entirely outside the global financial system, and the newly minted crypto rich live in a strange milieu that blends paranoid secrecy with ostentatious display. Take CZ’s Binance exchange. It has no real headquarters: Employees are scattered across several countries, and CZ himself seems to change locales the way others change clothes. “We don’t want to be in one place right now because of regulatory uncertainty,” says CZ. Last we heard, CZ and his trademark black hoodie had just popped up in Taiwan.

And CZ is downright normal by crypto-billionaire standards. Former child actor Brock Pierce (The Mighty Ducks, First Kid) dresses like a cut-rate Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean and is given to making grandiose statements from the balcony of his penthouse in Santa Monica, California. “This is an opportunity to be a trillionaire – someone who is positively impacting a trillion living things on this planet,” he tells Forbes. Pierce once raised $60 million from Goldman Sachs with the help of Stephen Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, to fund a company that sold virtual swords, chain mail and horses to role-playing videogamers. He also once got into trouble with his partners in a 1990s-era dot-com start-up after they were accused, in civil lawsuits, of sexual abuse of underaged boys. (Pierce has always denied the accusations and was never charged; one of his business partners, however, pleaded guilty to transporting minors across state lines for the purpose of sex.)

READ MORE: The Emperor’s New Coins

Pierce was early into the crypto game, first mining Bitcoin and then financing blockchain start-ups and investing in dozens of initial coin offerings. Although he publicly proclaims he is pledging a billion dollars to charity, he refuses to provide documentation that proves he has anywhere near that much money.

Given this opaqueness and crypto’s hyper-volatility, we are presenting our net-worth estimates in ranges. We based our numbers on estimated holdings of cryptocurrencies (a few provided proof), post-tax profits from trading crypto-assets and stakes in crypto-related businesses. We’ve also categorized our crypto rich list into five groups: idealists, builders, opportunists, infrastructure players and establishment investors. Many fit into more than one category.

It’s a near certainty that we’ve missed some people and that some of our estimates are wide of the mark. But this was equally true when we launched the first Forbes 400 list of America’s richest people in 1982. At the time, many people said we couldn’t — or shouldn’t — publish it. We did so anyway. And we firmly believe we made the world a better place by shining a light on the invisible rich. Just as crypto has evolved from the days of the Silk Road drug site and the Mt. Gox digital hijacking, fortunes of this magnitude should never be allowed to lurk in the shadows. – Written by 

READ THE FULL LIST OF THE RICHEST PEOPLE IN CRYPTOCURRENCY

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