Las Vegas contingent falters on Forbes 400 list

Forbes 400Keeping a fortune growing smartly can be as hard as amassing it in the first place, at least around Las Vegas. That’s my New To Las Vegas take-away from the latest annual edition of the famous Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, which was released this week.

Last year’s roster listed nine from Vegas. This year: just seven. And most of the remaining ones did not outperform the average 7% yearly gain of their peer group.

Casino czar and local newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson remained the wealthiest person in town (and the state) at No. 15 on the Forbes list. The 85-year-old was valued at $35.5 billion, up $100 million from last year. But that’s an increase of barely 1/4 of 1%. He dropped a click in the ranking.

Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie, 67, remained the richest woman in town (and the state) with a really good year. She was up $800 million, a hefty 16%, to $5.7 billion, also moving up her 13 notches from last year to No. 109.

But Andrew and Peggy Cherng, owners of the Panda Express Chinese restaurant empire, completely disappeared from the U.S.-only list. Last year they shared a No. 226 rank with a combined net worth of $3.3 billion. It’s my understanding that Forbes now values couples actively involved in a business individually. With the cut-off this year for the list–No. 400–rising to $2.1 billion a head, that means the Cherngs between them would have needed $4.2 billion. Forbes figures they’re now down to $2.9 billion.

Here are the other Las Vegans on the list:

Steve Wynn. Despite losing control of his Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts casino empire after a sex scandal, Wynn, 76, was valued at $3.0 billion, good for No. 271. That was down from $3.1 billion and No. 248 last year.

Phil Ruffin. He’s President Trump’s partner in the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas and 100% owner of Treasure Island. The 83-year-old was ranked No. 302 at $2.7 billion, 4% better than last year’s assessment of $2.6 billion and a rank of No. 315. (In case you wonder, Trump himself was ranked No. 259 at $3.1 billion.)

Elaine Wynn. Steve Wynn’s double-ex, also 76, checked in at No. 368 with a valuation of $2.2 billion, mostly her stake in Wynn Resorts. That was down $100 million and 12 clicks from last year.

Frank Fertitta III, 55, and brother Lorenzo Fertitta, 49. Also casino operators, Forbes figured their net worth at $2.1 billion each, tied for No. 383. Last year they ranked No. 388 at $1.9 billion, so they each went up 10½%.

The only other Nevadan on the list was David Duffield, 78, founder of two software companies. Living on the shores of Lake Tahoe, he had a terrific year, ranked No. 47 and valued at $9.6 billion, up $2.1 billion, a whopping 28%, and 19 clicks from last year.

Nationally, No. 1 was Seattle’s Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com, The Washington Post, rockets). He was valued at an astonishing $160 billion, nearly double his worth of a year ago.

Collectively, the 400 on the list were worth $2.7 trillion, up 7% in a year. Around Las Vegas, only Laurie and the Fertitta bros did better than 7%.

The Cherngs are off the list mainly due to a change in methodology. But they remain in good company. Forbes said that the U.S. was so lousy with heavy hitters that 204 billionaires–more than one-third of all the billies in the country–failed to make the Forbes 400. Like me.

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