The 42nd edition of the annual Forbes 400 list was published yesterday, and there was some shuffling in the Las Vegas area ranks. Two heavies climbed on, and one fell off. Net result: The number of local swells rose from three to four. But that simply matches the count in much-smaller cross-state rival Reno, which saw an even bigger increase.
The largest local loser, if that’s the correct categorization for someone still worth $2.7 billion, is Phil Ruffin, the 90-year-old owner of Circus Circus, Treasure Island and 50% of the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, shared with Donald J. Trump. According to Forbes, Ruffin’s net worth fell $300 million from $3 billion last year. As it turns out, $2.9 billion is this year’s cut-off.
Returning to the venerable list of the richest Americans are Andrew Cherng, 76, and Peggy Cherng, 75, founder, owners and co-CEOs of the Panda Express restaurant chain. Each ranked No. 366 with net worths of $3.1 billion, or $6.2 billion for the household. Both had been on previous Forbes 400 lists, but not last year’s.
Miriam Adelson, 77, widow of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, remains the richest woman in all of Las Vegas and all of Nevada. With her family she’s ranked No. 24, worth $32.8 billion, up a nifty $4.9 billion from 2022 when she was No. 26.
Rounding out the Las Vegas area contingent, Nancy Walton Laurie, 72, of the Walmart Waltons, ranked No. 88 with a stash of $9.3 billion. That’s five clicks and $1.6 billion better than last year.
As it turns out, the rival Reno area, with less than a quarter the population as the Las Vegas area, now has the same number of Forbes 400 members. Another wife-and-husband team, Eren Ozmen and Fatih Ozmen, both 65, came aboard for the first time thanks to their stewardship of private defense and aerospace company Sierra Nevada Corporation. Eren, who has a few more shares, is ranked No. 338, worth $3.4 billion, while Fatih clocks in at No. 345 at $3.3 billion. So it’s $6.7 billion for that household.
Trump, who lied his way onto the very first Forbes 400 list in 1982 by falsely claiming he owned a lot more of his father’s real estate business than he really did, is off this year’s list, for the first time in a quarter-century. Why? That rising cut-off, which went up while his estimated $2.8 billion net worth didn’t, due mainly to a failure to diversify out of real estate after he became President in 2017.
In 2016, the year I became New To Las Vegas, nine folks from the Las Vegas area made the list. That turned out to be a high-water mark. Their numbers dwindled mainly because technology proved to be greater engine of wealth generation than casinos.
Still, with a total of eight state residents on the tony Forbes roster, Nevada has one member for every 400,000 residents. That’s better than twice as good as the national average of one for ever 833,000 residents. Indeed, it balances off Nevada’s current status as the state with, at 5.4%, the country’s highest unemployment rate. In Nevada the high end and the low end both tell tales.