Way back in 1892, the highly influential New-York Tribune published the first-ever list of the richest Americans. And what a roster it was: an astonishing unranked compilation of the 4,047 persons the paper’s editors thought were “reputed to be worth a million or more.” (Based on the per-capita share then of the total U.S. economy, that’s the equivalent now of $1.5 billion each.)
But despite its scope–1 out of every 6,300 adult Americans and more than 10 times the number of swells that Malcolm Forbes nearly a century later starting in 1982 would call the Forbes 400–the Tribune list included no one living in Nevada. Why? “The enormously valuable silver mines of Nevada have laid the foundation of a large number of private fortunes,” the Tribune explained. “But the possessors of them now live in other states, the majority in San Francisco and New York City.”
They certainly didn’t live in Las Vegas. It was not yet a city and barely a place. Eight years later at the 1900 census the total population was recorded as a mere 18 (all of whom can be viewed on this single census enumeration page). The entire state population was just 42,000.
The New-York Tribune, which never again published such a rich list, is long out of business. But Forbes magazine is still around. The 41st edition of the Forbes 400 was published yesterday. The number of folks included from the Las Vegas area rose from last year by 50%.
To all of three.
That’s a shadow of the high point in 2016, the year I became New To Las Vegas, when nine folks from the area made the famous roster. Since then, failure to keep up with other fortunes, often technology-generated, has helped to take its toll on the local count.
Climbing back onto the list after a year off is casino magnate Phil Ruffin, 89, who owns Circus Circus, Treasure Island and 50% of the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas (Donald J. Trump owns the other half). Ruffin is ranked No. 359 (in a tie with nine others) at $3 billion. That’s up $800 million from last year when his $2.2 billion missed the $2.9 billion cutoff for No. 400. (This year’s cut-off actually dropped to $2.8 billion.)
The richest clan in Las Vegas and Nevada remains the family of Miriam Adelson, 76, widow of casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who died in 2021. The Adelsons, who have unloaded their Las Vegas casino holdings but still control the Las Vegas Review-Journal, are ranked No. 26 with a valuation of $27.9 billion. But that is a whopping $2.5 billion drop from the $30.4 million last year, when they were ranked two clicks higher at No. 24.
The third Las Vegas-area person on the list is Nancy Walton Laurie, 71, of the Walmart Waltons (her dad was Sam’s brother). She is ranked No. 93 with a net worth estimated at $7.7 billion.That’s one click better but $800 million less than last year.
There are two other software-producing northern Nevadans on the list: California transplant David Duffield, of Incline Village, 82, ranked No. 68 at $9.4 billion, and Jay Chaudhry, 63, of Reno, ranked No. 79 at $8.3 billion.
As for the others from Las Vegas on that 2016 list, Andrew and Peggy Cherng (Panda Express), Elaine Wynn (cofounder, Wynn Resorts), Frank Fertitta III and brother Lorenzo Fertitta (casinos, martial arts business) fell off due mainly to rising cutoffs. One-time casino czar Steve Wynn (cofounder Wynn Resorts), 80, is still on the list at No. 343, worth $3.2 billion, but he moved several years ago from state-income-tax free Nevada to state-income-tax-free Florida.
No. 1 on the Forbes rich list for the first time is entrepreneur Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX), 51, worth an astonishing $251 billion. No. 2 is Jeff Bezos (Amazon), 58, at $151 billion. Trump, 76, who lied his way onto that first Forbes 400 list in 1982, fell off last year but is back on this year at No. 343 (same as Steve Wynn and six others), worth $3.2 billion.
Horace Greeley, the 19th Century founder of the New-York Tribune, is credited with declaring, “Go West, young man.” That advice certainly has worked for some heavies in Las Vegas, although not like it used to.