Monday, October 12, 2009

The West's gazillionaires, billionaires and pikers

David Frey writes in New West about the Rocky Mountain region's richest people, at least according to Forbes Magazine. I'm a bit ashamed of Wyoming's lack of gazillionaires. True, there is at least one high roller in Jackson. Make that a family of high rollers: Christy Walton of Wal-Mart fame and her family. They're No. 4 on the list with $21.5 billion.

I have helped make Wal-Mart the powerhouse that it is today. Yes, I shop locally when I can. But it's tough to be a purist when you have only so much money to spend and the 24-roll Super-Ultra-Soft packs of toilet paper are on sale.

The Walton family presence in Jackson may also explain why Wal-Mart has upped its contributions to local causes in Wyoming. While there is no Wal-Mart in Jackson, there are two in Casper -- one on the east side and one on the west. With all those eager shoppers sandwiched in-between.

Here's Mr. Frey's take on the richy-rich of WYO:

If Wyoming’s three richest families decided to boost the economy by giving all their money to fellow Cowboy State residents, each resident of Wyoming would walk away with $44,493. That gives Wyoming the biggest chunk of billionaire dollars per capita in the country, according to Forbes magazine’s latest list of 400 wealthiest people in America.

It helps that Wyoming’s sparse population makes the state better known for wide-open spaces than urban squalor. It also helps that Wyoming is home to the richest family in the West. Making Forbes’ list at No. 4 is Christy Walton and family, who have brought their $21.5 billion Wal-Mart fortune to Jackson, making them the wealthiest Westerners.

Two other billionaires call Wyoming home. Squeaking in at the bottom of the Forbes list are Conair’s Leandro Rizzuto, of Sheridan, with $1.2 billion, and TD Ameritrade’s J. Joseph Ricketts, of Little Jackson Hole, with a meager $1 billion. Combined, they add up to $23.7 billion.

Philip Anschutz is the richest of all in Colorado, coming in at No. 37 with $6 billion. Rumor has it that he's currently trying to buy up the rest of the West to put in wind turbines that will supply endless power to his ego.

Almost all the interior West states claim at least one billionaire. Except for Utah and New Mexico. That's a darn shame. But Frey sees a bright side:

As long as there’s a Santa Fe and a Park City, they’ll still come to visit.

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