It’s still the land of opportunity

Published 2:07 pm Friday, October 8, 2010

Through no fault of my own, Forbes Magazine suddenly caste its shadow upon my doorstep.

I didn’t order the magazine, and no one sent me a notice of it being a gift subscription, but there it was, totally unsubscribed.

Forbes Magazine is boring. Just like its owner and editor, Steve Forbes, who dreamed one day of being president of the United States

Email newsletter signup

But then maybe that’s what we need—a boring president. Boring presidents don’t do anything inspiring, don’t say anything controversial, absorb without responding to criticisms from friend and foe. When their term expires, they go quietly into the night, leaving insignificant historical footnotes.

Anyway, here is this boring magazine that never was ordered, nor has a red cent ever been paid for its subscription. If they send a renewal card, it’s history.

This month, though, it contained a worthy topic that the magazine has been reporting for 40 years—classifying and quantifying the 400 richest people in America, all of them billionaires.

Got a million bucks today?

Pshaw. Merely pennies.

What caught my eye were the number of younger people under 40, several under 30, who made the billionaire list.

Topping the young folks list was Mark Zuckerberg, 28, founder of Facebook, with a net worth of $6.9 billion. Did I say he was only 28 years old?

Zuckerberg has done all the right things toward becoming a billionaire.

First, he dropped out of Harvard. Dabbling with the Internet, he and two roommates founded Facebook, which now has more than 500 million members, and an estimated revenue of more than $2 billion. Rather than own real estate, he rents a house near Stanford University, remains single whereas many older billionaires are listed as “divorced.”

Now, there is a movie about him and his roommates, on how they gathered financial fame. Dirty laundry lists are included.

According to Forbes Magazine, Zuckerberg’s fortune surged $4.9 billion over the last year as private equity deals placed Facebook’s value at about $23 billion.

America’s young billionaire is studying Mandarin for a trip to China, has no phone in his office, relying instead on his iPhone and Blackberry.

Forbes’ reports Zuckerberg tripled his fortune in the past year, has put his co-founders and unheard-of-suppliers of games on the map, as well as spurred incalculably valuable competition in the race to exploit social media.

Eduardo Saverin, 28, at $1.15 billion, and Dustin Moskovitz, 26, worth $1.4 billion, are both co-founders with Zuckerberg of Facebook. Moskovitz, another Harvard dropout, is billed as the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. Saverin stuck it out, though, is billed as a Harvard graduate.

There are three more young people in this under-30 group: Scott Duncan, Milane Duncan Frantz and Randa Duncan Williams, brother and sisters, all rated at $3.1 billion each. The kids inherited from their late dad, Dan Duncan, Enterprise Products, a pipeline empire. Their products roll through 49,000 miles of pipelines.

There are two under-40 moguls who have made their fortunes on the Internet—Sergey Brin and Larry Page, each worth $15 billion. They Google.

I always try to have these missives connect to something local. Going back through the 400 billionaires on the list, there were no records of any in Bainbridge or Decatur County billionaires. Just thought it would be good to set the record straight.

So who is the richest billionaire in the land today?

Another Harvard dropout.

He made the Forbes list in 1986 at age 30, as the youngest self-made billionaire.

It’s none other than Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, with a net worth of $54 billion.

Get this. In 1999, Bill Gates was worth $85 billion. Is he slipping? No, he has been giving it away. To date, his foundation and charities have given away $28 billion.

Point of this missive is opportunity. We still live in the land of opportunity. Some might think with all the government regulations, taxes and anti-business legislation that opportunity to become millionaires and billionaires has vanished. Not so. But it helps to be a genius, or have a successful daddy suddenly drop dead.

Here’s something local—sorta.

Jim Walton, Alice Walton and Robson Walton, all worth $20 billion each, gather their bucks each time you purchase anything from Wal-Mart. The entire Walton family fortune is estimated to top $84 billion.

So whenever you shop Wal-Mart, remember, you are helping these Sam Walton heirs gather a really nice secure retirement.

Doesn’t that make you feel like gold?