The Rich Got Richer: Unpacking the Forbes 400 Wealthiest Americans List

The Rich Got Richer: Unpacking the Forbes 400 Wealthiest Americans List. www.businessmanagement.news

Forbes is out with its annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, and it’s largely a year in which the rich got richer.

Forbes said the average net worth of individuals on this year’s list was a record $7.2 billion, and the minimum net worth to claim a place on the list hit an all-time high of $2.1 billion. That meant there were plenty of billionaires who didn’t make the cut.

A new name is at top of the chart, unseating Microsoft founder Bill Gates from his No. 1 ranking after 24 years. Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ zoomed right past Gates with a net worth of $160 billion. Gates’ net worth: $97 billion.

Buoyed in part by a strong stock market and generous tax cuts courtesy Donald Trump and the Republicans, the 400 wealthiest Americans delivered a record-breaking year. The minimum net worth needed to join this elite club climbed to $2.1 billion, $100 million more than last year and the highest to date. The group’s total net worth rose to $2.9 trillion, a record high and 7% more than in 2017. The average net worth of a list member: $7.2 billion, up from $6.7 billion last year. That average is boosted by those at the very top of the list: half of the total wealth is held by the 45 richest people in the country.

Some, like media pioneer and fervent Republican donor Stanley Hubbard, were booted off the list as his mere $2 billion net worth no longer makes the cut.

The biggest gainer in percentage terms is Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and payments firm Square. His fortune jumped a staggering 186% from last year to $6.3 billion, propelled primarily by a runup in Square’s stock price.

The biggest loser versus last year’s list was George Soros, whose net worth fell to $8.3 billion this year from $23 billion. The reason: in late 2017, Forbes learned that Soros had shifted $18 billion of his fortune to his charitable Open Society Foundations.

Donald Trump’s ranking dropped 11 spots to No. 259 on the list, down from No. 248 last year, even as his net worth remained the same from last year at $3.1 billion.

Even at the lofty $2.1 billion entry point, 15 newcomers joined the ranks, with fortunes built in industries as varied as hearing aids, e-commerce and logistics. Twelve of the newcomers are self-made, including Drew Houston, CEO of online file sharing firm Dropbox; Thai Lee, an immigrant from South Korea who built a giant IT reseller; and Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius, the cofounders of email marketing firm Mailchimp. Chris Larsen also makes his debut as the first person ever on The Forbes 400 from a cryptocurrency fortune.

The number of women on the 400 list ticked up to 57, including two who cofounded companies and share a fortune with their husband. That compares to 55 women on the list last year (five of those were listed with their cofounder husbands). In addition to Thai Lee, new women entrants include Lynsi Snyder, who inherited and runs popular California-based burger chain In N Out. At 36, she is the youngest woman in the ranks.

The oldest person on The Forbes 400 is Sumner Redstone, age 95, worth $4.8 billion. The youngest is Snapchat cofounder and CEO Evan Spiegel, age 28 and worth $2.2 billion. He is one of just 12 people on list under age 40.

At 269, list members with self-made fortunes vastly outnumber those who inherited wealth (64 members), and those who inherited a fortune and have worked significantly to increase it –what Forbes calls “inherited and growing” (67 members).

Also of note, the Koch brothers, each worth $53.5 billion, have a combined worth bigger than anyone, save the number one Jeff Bezos.