There’s one Washington state newcomer this year on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Joining the usual suspects from the empires of Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks is Melinda French Gates.
The list is topped by Jeff Bezos, worth $201 billion, the richest person in the world for the fourth year running. His net worth increased $22 billion in the past year. Not far behind is Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, of Texas, worth $190 billion. The two have duked it out for the top spot, trading places frequently through much of this year as both companies’ share prices rose.
French Gates is Washington’s only new addition to the list, at No. 158, worth $6.3 billion following her divorce from Bill Gates in August. She remains co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and leads Pivotal Ventures, a company she created in 2015 to help incubate and invest in companies built by women and underrepresented founders.
In slots 4 and 9 are Microsoft icons Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, at $134 billion and $96.5 billion, respectively. Gates’ net worth increased $23 billion in the past year, and Ballmer’s increased $27.5 billion. Microsoft’s share price has increased approximately 40% since October 2020.
Mackenzie Scott, who received 4% of Amazon’s stock in 2019 following her divorce from Jeff Bezos, saw her net worth increase to $58.5 billion this year. Her holdings have increased more than $20 billion in the past two years, coinciding with Amazon’s soaring share price. She also has given more than $8 billion to philanthropic initiatives, including a $2.74 billion donation this year to 286 arts and education recipients.
“It has been a terrible year for many, but the good times keep on rolling for the nation’s richest,” wrote Forbes editor Kerry Dolan, in a note introducing the list. The publication said the total collection’s net worth increased 40% in the last year to $4.5 trillion. The estimates, based on stock values in early September, are made using securities filings, court records and news articles, and include many different assets ranging from stakes in companies and real estate to jewelry and yachts.
Of the 400 individuals on the list, 56 were women, a number that was unchanged from one year ago.
Gabe Newell, CEO of Bellevue-based video gaming company Valve, was one of the few individuals on the list whose net worth decreased from a year ago. Newell is worth $3.9 billion, down $100 million from the $4 billion estimated in September 2020.
A noticeable omission from the list: former President Donald Trump, whose estimated net worth of $2.5 billion fell $400 million short of making the club. It was the first time in 25 years Trump was not included on the list. Oprah also missed the cutoff.
Starbucks chair Howard Schultz, whose holdings dropped at the start of the pandemic to $3 billion, has since recovered his losses and is now worth an estimated $5 billion.
Charles Simonyi, an early Microsoft employee who designed staples such as Word and Excel, has steadily grown his net worth over the years to $6.1 billion. He was ranked No. 168 on the list. One year ago, he was worth $4.5 billion.
Correction: The story has been updated to show former President Donald Trump had a net worth of $2.5 billion, not $2.5 million.