Together the members of The Forbes 400 list of richest Americans are worth a record-setting $2.96 trillion. That figure didn’t grow on its own. The entrepreneurs among the 400 list have made plenty of bold moves—and have taken risks—to achieve success. Whether by pioneering new industries or innovating in old ones, many members of The Forbes 400 have made their companies more valuable with their bold decisions. Here are six stories behind some of the past year’s most impressive milestones.
By Carter Coudriet
Revenue at the company, which is now one of the largest wholesale distributors of roofing, siding and windows, was under $3 billion when she took over. She steered ABC through the two biggest acquisitions in its history, buying rival Bradco in 2010 and building materials distributor L&W Supply in 2016. Hendricks is the richest self-made woman in the U.S., worth $7 billion, attributable primarily to her ownership of the company. That makes her America’s 14th-richest woman and 79th-richest person.
The company’s stock is up nearly 50% in the past year, pushing board member William Lauder—a grandson of founder Estée Lauder—into The Forbes 400 for the first time. Altogether the five Lauder family members on The Forbes 400, including William’s father Leonard, his uncle Ronald and cousins Aerin and Jane, are worth $32.9 billion this year, up by $8.7 billion from a year ago. William’s brother, Gary, meanwhile has moved into the ten-figure club for the first time. Style icon Estée Lauder founded the company in 1946. It’s grown to encompass brands including Clinique, Smashbox and Too Faced. Sales reached a record $14.9 billion in the latest fiscal year.
In late 2018 and early 2019 Snap suffered a wave of executive departures amid a downturn in the number of users, as the company faced growing competition from Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. The recent turnaround in users came after the company introduced a new augmented reality lens for its in-app pictures and a rebuilt version of its app for Android phones. Thanks to better results, the stock rose nearly 70% in the past year and the fortunes of its two cofounders jumped over 55% apiece. Stanford fraternity brothers Spiegel and Murphy launched Snapchat in 2011 and renamed the company to Snap in 2016. It is especially popular with teenagers and Millennials, who use it to send disappearing photos and videos. Spiegel, who first debuted as a billionaire at age 25, is the youngest member of The Forbes 400, at age 29, for the fifth year in a row.
That move landed Zscaler founder and CEO Chaudhry on The Forbes 400 list for the first time. His is a rags-to-riches tale: He grew up in a village in India’s Himalayan mountains that didn’t have electricity or running water until he was a teenager. Chaudhry’s first time in an airplane was a one-way trip to attend the University of Cincinnati, where he earned an M.B.A. and two engineering master’s degrees. A serial entrepreneur, he sold companies he’d founded to Motorola and AT&T and took Zscaler, which he founded in 2008, public in March 2018. The company’s security software tracks 70 billion internet transactions daily looking for threats like malware and bots. Customers include Siemens and Britain’s National Health Service.
As a result, founder Michael Dell tacked on $4.7 billion in net worth in the past year, clocking in at an estimated $32.3 billion. He’s now ranked No. 18 among the richest in the U.S. Dell, who started the personal computer maker in his University of Texas dorm room in 1984, initially took it public in 1988. He privatized it in 2013 as the company’s flagship PC products became less profitable. Dell spent the next five years paying down debt, boosting profits and acquiring over 80% of cloud computing and virtualization powerhouse VMware. “Like our customers, we had to transform for a new digital era,” Dell told investors in 2018. The stock is up 16% since its listing late last year.
The all-cash deal was announced just hours after Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, which Steven Rales co-produced, came up short in February at the Academy Awards after being nominated for best animated feature. The acquisition of the GE assets is expected to close in the fourth quarter, but Danaher’s stock price has already risen by nearly one fourth since the February announcement, helping to boost the brothers’ fortunes by $700 million apiece. Acquisitions are nothing new for Danaher. The brothers started their industrial conglomerate with the acquisition of a REIT in 1983 and then merged their acquisitions into the firm. They were inspired to name the firm Danaher (Dana means swift flowing in Celtic) after a fishing trip to Montana. Over the years, the company has acquired hundreds of companies. More than 50% of Danaher’s $19.9 billion in revenue today has been acquired in the past seven years. The brothers no longer run the business but remain on the board.