When I became New To Las Vegas five years ago, the annual Forbes 400 list of America’s richest folks contained nine individuals from the Sin City area. As it turned out, that was something of a peak year for the local count, as the basis for much of the vast wealth around Las Vegas–casinos, entertainment, hospitality, that kind of stuff–couldn’t keep up with fortunes being generated by big finance and technology brains elsewhere. Astonishingly, there now are more billionaires in the U.S. not on the Forbes list than on it.
The 40th edition of the Forbes 400 was just published. The Las Vegas Rich List contingent is now down to two.
The latest to fall off the Forbes list completely: Phil Ruffin, 86, Donald J. Trump’s 50-50 partner in the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas and owner of the Treasure Island and Circus Circus properties along the Las Vegas Strip. Last year, Ruffin was ranked No. 359 with a net worth of $2.3 billion. This year he is unranked. Forbes reckons his net worth at $2.2 billion, down $100 million, and $300 million below the $2.5 billion cut-off for this year’s list. (As it turns out, due to the rising cutoff–$2.9 billion this year–Trump himself also fell off the Forbes list despite a net worth estimate of $2.5 billion for the second straight year.) But Ruffin made another list. Las Vegas TV station KLAS recently identified Ruffin’s residence in this Mojave Desert region as the 64th biggest residential user of water in the Las Vegas area, consuming 2.21 million gallons of the precious resource.
Steve Wynn is still on the Forbes list, ranked No. 358 with a net worth of $3.3 billion, up $300 million from last year. But Forbes has finally gotten around to listing the Las Vegas Strip visionary as a resident of Florida (another jurisdiction with no state income tax), where Wynn is registered to vote and owns a huge mansion. He fled Vegas after his ouster as Wynn Resorts CEO in 2018 amid a sexual harassment scandal. But Wynn still has a Las Vegas house, lavish enough to consume 4.85 million gallons of water and rank No. 13 on that KLAS water-usage list.
So that leaves here:
—Miriam Adelson, 75, who took the place of her husband, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who died in January. She is ranked No. 24 with a net worth of $30.4 billion, up $600 million from Sheldon’s $29.8 billion last year. The Adelson family, which also owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal, long has been the richest family in Las Vegas, and Nevada. Water usage? KLAS identified an Adelson estate in Las Vegas as the second-biggest residential user of water in the water-starved Las Vegas area, with 11.27 million gallons.
—Nancy Walton Laurie, 70, of the Walmart Waltons (Her dad was Sam’s brother). She is No. 94 on the list with a net worth of $8.5 billion, up a cool bil from last year. Laurie lives in suburban Henderson, where, according to that KLAS water list, her estate used nearly 5 million gallons of water last year, ranking No. 12.
Over the rest of Nevada, the Forbes 400 list included two others:
—David Duffield, 81, a California refugee now in Incline Village, with a technology fortune of $16.5 billion, up a whopping $5.5 billion from last year. He ranks No. 150.
–List newcomer Jay Chaudhry, 62, of Reno, another California transplant who parleyed Zscaler, a security software firm he founded, into a $16.3 billion fortune, good enough for No. 45 on the Forbes list.
No. 1 on the Forbes list remains Jeff Bezos (Amazon, Washington Post, space travel), 57. His net worth is up to an astounding $201 billion. Some day, he could be the richest person on Mars, too.
Mary Don, thanks for your comments.
Good of you to mention water usage by the richies. The western climate is getting drier and has been for years. Even rainy Portland now is concerned.
Less often mentioned is water use by marijuana cultivators. One, a legal one outside Ashland OR, fed his crop so much well water several years back that his neighbors’ spigots (and presumably their toilets) went dry sometime in early summer. There also are off-the-books plantations in Oregon and all over Northern California that use — or shall we say “cadge” — many, many barrels of water to fill the public need for medical CBD.