Bay Area billionaires have strong showing on 2015 Forbes 400 list

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Forbes gave Donald Trump’s net worth a $5.5 billion haircut.

New York: Microsoft founder Bill Gates retained his title as wealthiest American, while three founders of online companies joined the top 10, according to the Forbes 400 list released on Tuesday. Cynics no doubt will dismiss the fascination with the Forbes list as little more than an unseemly obsession with the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Gates held onto the number-one spot in the annual list of the 400 wealthiest Americans for the 22nd straight year, with net worth of $76 billion, down $5 billion from 2014.

Warren Buffett, the head of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, ranked second with $62 billion, while former Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison is third with $47.5 billion. But it was Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who has emerged as the biggest overall gainer, adding a whopping $16.5billion to his war chest in a single year after his company posted a quarterly profit in July. The Donald, as the outspoken real estate mogul’s former wife Ivana dubbed him, has pegged his net worth at around $10 billion, according to its ranking of the wealthiest people in the U.S.

In all, 25 newcomers made it into the ranks of America’s wealthiest billionaires, including 25-year-old Evan Spiegel (#327) of Snapchat, the youngest on the list, worth $2.1billion, Brian Chesky (#194) of Airbnb at $3.3billion and Bill Haslam (#327), governor of Tennessee, at $2.1billion. Here’s what he said, according to an article by Forbes’ Randall Lane: “I think you’re trying to make me as poor as possible,” Trump told the magazine. That is all I’m gonna say.” “Well, I think the biggest difference is in terms of how he values his brand, We don’t use brand value in terms of our valuations because we figure if you have some brand value that you’re going to find a way to monetize, but until you do, we don’t count it,” said Forbes, chairman and editor in chief at Forbes.

But my impression, having been a student of the Forbes wealth rankings for more than two decades, is that most of them go to the stock market after they already have made their fortunes. Charles and David Koch, co-founders of Koch Industries, a giant company with interests in the oil industry, building and manufacturing, this year tied for fifth place, each bringing to the table a $41billion fortune. Forbes came up with a lower figure, rating the billionaire in 121st place. “After interviewing more than 80 sources and devoting unprecedented resources to valuing a single fortune, we’re going with a figure less than half that — $4.5 billion, albeit still the highest figure we’ve ever had for him,” Forbes said. Over the 12 months through the data cutoff for this year’s Forbes list, for example, the combined value of all U.S. publicly traded companies lost 4% of their value. Buffett is widely regarded to have the best long-term performance of any investor alive today, and over the past 30 years the book value of his company, Berkshire Hathaway BRK.A, +0.16% has grown at a 17.7% annualized rate.

Because of the bar being so high, 145 American billionaires didn’t make the cut, among them Elaine Wynn, co-founder of the Wynn Las Vegas hotel, and Urban Outfitters co-founder Richard Hayne. Trump’s net worth has proved a sensitive subject, leading him to file a lawsuit in 2006 against a reporter, who Trump claimed understated his wealth. With unrealistic expectations, you take on unreasonable levels of risk, and then even more risk when those expectations don’t pan out, as they inevitably won’t.

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