Most states are home to at least one ten-digit fortune, and some — like California, New York and Texas — are home to dozens. A few, however — including Bernie Sanders’ Vermont — are uninhabited by the billionaire class.
When compiling our list of the richest person in every state, Forbes found six states where the person with the highest net worth is too poor to make our annual World’s Billionaires list. These same states, home to “mere” centimillionaires, were also billionaire-barren last year. But both Alabama and Alaska now have new richest residents.
After the decline of the coal market eroded mining magnate Garry Drummond’s fortune, Jimmy Rane took over as the richest person in Alabama. The founder of Abbeville-based building materials company Great Southern Wood Preserving, Rane is better known nown as Yella Fella, the cowboy alter-ego he plays in TV commercials. He got into the lumber business by accident. In 1970, as a law student, Rane stepped in to mediate a family dispute over his father-in-law’s estate and ended up taking control of a small fence post manufacturer. He expanded the company on the side while he ran a private practice and spent five years as a county judge. Eventually Rane shifted his focus to Great Southern Wood, where he remains chairman and CEO. Today the company hauls in more than $700 million of revenue a year, and Rane is personally worth an estimated $610 million. He might have the biggest fortune in Alabama, but Rane is still $1.1 billion shy of making the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans.
Alaska, the state with the smallest top fortune for the second straight year, also has new wealthiest residents: Jonathan Rubini and Leonard Hyde, the real estate developers behind Anchorage-based JL Properties. The partners are worth $350 million apiece due to a portfolio of commercial properties, hotels and military housing, largely in Alaska but also in Utah, Georgia and Florida. They have stakes in the Anchorage’s ConocoPhillips and JL towers, plus a 66-acre tract of land in Utah, where they are building a business park. JL Properties and a partner also developed 3,600 multifamily military housing units on Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson in Anchorage, a $600 million venture that is one of the largest private military housing projects in the country.
Forbes Richest Person In Every State Coverage Continues HereA few familiar non-billionaires remained the richest in their states. The fortunes of North Dakota’s Gary Tharaldson ($980 million) and Vermont’s John Abele ($600 million) stayed flat. Tharaldson made a fortune in hotels and has also plowed hundreds of millions into land and ethanol. Abele, who cofounded medical device company Boston Scientific BSX -0.40%, has taken himself out of the billionaire ranks by shifting money into trusts and giving more than $100 million to charity.
Delaware’s Robert Gore and Elizabeth Snyder ($770 million each) gained $95 million each since last year thanks to the strong performance of W.L. Gore & Associates, the family business that manufactures Gore-Tex. Forbes estimates New Mexico oil and natural gas man Mack Chase ($690 million) is now worth $40 million more than last year, in part due to new information about his extensive ranch holdings. He owns property in New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming.