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 Bezos, whose 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 Zuckerberg. His 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.
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.
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.
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
5 Ways To Cope With The Self During Isolation
As Covid-19 continues to spread ruthlessly across the globe, governments have enforced lockdowns in countries to slow the infection rate. And this has meant restricted movements of people and work from home. As the globe’s population practises self-isolation and social-distancing, the lack of the familiar can lead to further stress and mental health issues. Establishing coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety and depression during these times is crucial. Healthcare practitioner and counselling psychologist, Nkateko Ndala-Magoro, through the South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s Facebook platform, lets us in on five self-help strategies to deal with depression.
Get active: “It is hard I know to stay active while you are confined. The benefits of staying active is the release of feel good hormones that are in contrast with the hormones that exacerbate depression. Being active also helps regulate your heart beat; for people suffering from anxiety, the regulation of breathing might help with the severity of the anxiety/panic attack.”
Take time to sleep: “I know people are already feeling like they do not have any more positions of sleep because of sleeping too much during lockdown. I encourage that people get as much quality sleep as possible in this time. Sleeping has benefits on our health and wellbeing in general, let alone on our mental health on many levels.”
Read: “Keep yourself busy by reading. There is a wealth of information in books. There are many online platforms including Amazon, which have made available e-books for free. Read self-help books and fiction to escape the reality; and any other books that interest you.”
Learn a new skill: “This will also keep you interested as mastering something new takes a lot in terms of focus and energy.”
Connect with loved ones: “Connect with your loved ones via video chats. Journal and work on things you have been meaning to work on to give you a sense of accomplishment.”
The Five Trends To Future-Proof Your Business
Some of these fads were slowly building in the previous decade, others are still nascent, but need your full attention to prepare your business for the times ahead.
1. AI and machine learning
Key takeaway: Automate repetitive tasks, but be wary of automating inefficiencies and biases.
You’re surrounded by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning: from the recommendations Netflix makes based on your viewing history to those pesky adverts that track you around the internet. As Bronwyn Williams, a trend analyst at Flux Trends in South Africa, explains, “Most of what you think is AI is actually machine learning.” Williams emphasizes that fears about AI “stealing jobs” are overrated, and most businesses will see the arduous, repetitive tasks given to machines, freeing up humans for analysis and critical thinking. She warns businesses to remember it’s the human interaction that differentiates one offering from another. “Don’t automate away your value. Look under the hood and make sure you understand why you are automating something – and be careful not to automate inefficiencies.” Looking at automated HR processes, companies have discovered that even unconscious human biases are learned by machines (for example, CVs belonging to certain genders and races are discredited. Machines are not born neutral – especially if they’re learning from humans.) Embrace machine learning, but do so with a pinch of salt.
2. Driverless cars and the supply chain
Key takeaway: Autonomous cars are still about 15 years away, but it’s best to prepare your fleet and supply chain choice now.
The automotive industry is going through some major changes: electric cars, the growth of services like Uber and Lift, and lastly, the development of autonomous vehicles. Though the first two will impact everyday consumer experiences, it’s self-driving cars that will massively alter businesses and their supply chains across Africa in the next decade. “As convenience and efficiency are the cornerstones of the fleet industry, there is no doubt self-driving vehicles will start making a play for their share of the fleet industry sooner rather than later,” explains Sudesh Pillay on fleet management company EQSTRA’s online platform. The supply chain will no longer be affected by driver fatigue and human error. Driverless cars will also dramatically impact accident rates (lowering them by 90%, according to some estimates) and supply chain efficiency. As Innovation Group’s Future Now report indicates, autonomous cars face some serious challenges across Africa before they can become a practical alternative to human drivers. “There is a vision, in the not-too-distant future, in which self-driving cars hold a lot of promise…. Others are more skeptical about the practical feasibility, especially in Africa where the infrastructural limitations (roads, electricity etc.) hold back the vision, at least in the foreseeable future. Our research indicates that self-driving cars may only become a reality in South Africa in  or more years and that this may spur innovative advances in infrastructure, energy services and ultimately the look and feel of roads and cities.”
3. Climate crises and
Key takeaway: Hire a Chief Sustainability Officer to
start building climate resilience into your business.
“Now is the time to start thinking seriously about resilience,” says Hugh Tyrrell, Director at Green Edge, a corporate mentoring initiative in Cape Town that helps businesses develop sustainably. “The big brands have Chief Sustainability Officers (CSO). This role is in the C-suite and is forward-thinking,” Tyrell explains. CSOs look at how businesses can start developing their own power, lower their eco-footprint and manage their resources better. Looking to the big corporate trendsetters, there are some major shifts in corporate strategy focusing on a sustainable business model instead of growth at all costs. Unilever, for example, is holding their suppliers to the same eco-friendly standards that they themselves are working at, says Tyrrell. Natural disasters associated with the climate crisis are already affecting African businesses too. Explains Tyrrell, “In agriculture, which is a big sector in Africa, we are seeing the effect of droughts or floods. Others have to work more closely with their suppliers to ensure supplies come in good condition and on time.” Mining is another industry heavily impacted by the climate crisis – and the push by consumers for more environmental-friendly solutions.
4. The age of cyberattacks and data breaches
Key takeaway: Make sure your IT department includes
skilled data protection specialists.
As businesses innovate and rely less on physical hardware like servers, and start instead relying on the cloud, they can expect to see a massive uptick in cyberattacks and subsequent data breaches. This trend increased exponentially in 2019 (even the City of Johannesburg in South Africa was held by ransomware) and is set to explode in the coming decade. Added to this, businesses are collecting more data than ever before, particularly for marketing purposes and to tailor their product offerings. Because of this, businesses should prepare themselves for the onslaught by firstly, taking their online security very seriously, secondly, training their staff (employees are the weakest link in any security chain) and thirdly, putting more budget behind appropriate security measures. “The demand for narrow cybersecurity expertise is driven by a constantly changing threat landscape, as well as evolving technologies, such as cloud or IoT. As a result, we see the bigger demand in, for example, threat intelligence analysts and dedicated threat intelligence services, and experts for cloud platform protection. The call for data protection specialists is seen in both technical and regulatory and compliance aspects,” says Alexander Moiseev, Chief Business Officer at online security software Kaspersky.
5. The remote workforce
Key takeaway: Flexi-hours and working remotely are practical ways to combat challenges like loadshedding and traffic.
With intermittent power supply (particularly in South Africa), increasing traffic and less reliance on physical IT infrastructure like servers, the remote and flexible workforce is becoming a norm. Says Moiseev, “The working model is already being changed, with 40% of small and medium companies regularly allowing their employees to work at locations outside the office — from home or while traveling.” In addition, health scares like the coronavirus are amplifying these trends. “Apps that enable remote working are having a moment,” explains Williams. “You now get filters to add makeup to video conferences so you don’t have to dress up when you’re working from home.” Many employees expect the flexibility of remote working when job hunting, and businesses reap the benefits of agility.
The Top 5 Emerging Crazy Tech
A pick of some of the weirdest, coolest tech that could come hurtling our way this year.
- A bot that delivers toilet paper
Forgot to instal toilet paper in the loo? The Charmin RollBot is designed to carry a roll of toilet paper on two wheels. With the press of a button on your phone, the RollBot will help with your sanitary requirement.
Using Bluetooth, the bot will commence its mission; an infra-red sensor able to navigate its way to you. According to Business Insider, there’s no price or release date for RollBot, nor is it clear if it will ever be released as a consumer product. Charmin calls RollBot a “conceptual prototype”. The brand unveiled the bot last month at the CES 2020 expo in Las Vegas.
2. The Cyrcle phone
If for any reason you got bored of your rectangular handset, the circular phone is always an alternative offering a different view and take. According to the makers, the phone was designed with the Generation Z, female audience in mind. It’s round and features two headphone jacks. The device was designed by a US-based startup delivering a shape that it says is more “sensual”. The company reckons it will be ready to launch in a year’s time.
3. A smart bed
There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. But it’s not always possible to have the best sleep every day. Or is it? There is a bed that’s guaranteed to give you your beauty sleep the way you want it.
Sleep Number Climate 360 has a mattress with features that warm your feet to help you sleep faster. It will also help you stay asleep by cooling your body, and balance your temperature with your natural wake and sleep cycles.
But what’s most intriguing is the fact that the bed also gives you a Sleep IQ score for personalized sleep insights. It measures your heart rate, breathing and movement, tracks your circadian rhythms and can show how your heart rate varies. The smart bed received the CES 2020 Best of Innovation award and is only expected to be available in 2021.
4. Self-changing trash can
For those who dread taking out the trash, this device is possible a no-brainer. Apart from its motion sensors to detect when you need to throw trash, when it’s full, it will automatically seal the trash bag and line the bin with a new one, all with a press of a button.
Even if the bin is overflowing, the top compartment will lift up so it can still seal the bag shut without any mess. The bin, called the Townew bin, was designed by a Canadian company, Knectek Labs.
5. Vertical TV
Just when we were getting used to wider TVs, it seems taller screens may soon be coming to your living room. Samsung’s Sero TV vertical-oriented will soon be hitting markets.
The TV can not only work in the traditional horizontal format, but is also able to turn on its side for playing vertical videos in portrait style.This might come in handy when watching videos from social media platforms such as TikTok or Instagram that deal primarily with vertical videos.
It sits on a stand that prevents it hitting the floor when turning, and can be paired with a phone so that it automatically orientates it correctly based on what’s beamed from the handset. According to TechRadar.com the pricing and availability are yet to be revealed, but the Sero will be leaving Korea and is headed to the US and “several global markets” later this year.
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