The Annotated Forbes 400

A closer look at the 19 Chicagoans on Forbes magazine’s annual list of the country’s richest people.

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It used to be that a person was considered rich if he had $1 million. But today that kind of scratch doesn’t set you apart the way it once did. In metropolitan Chicago alone, there are more than 100,000 millionaires (people whose net worth, excluding the value of their primary residence, tops $1 million), according to the market research company Claritas.

These days the true benchmark for stupendous wealth comes with a few more zeroes attached. The latest Forbes magazine list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, published in October 2005, contains 19 Chicagoans, 18 of them billionaires and a 19th-Joe Mansueto, the founder of Morningstar, the financial publisher-who’s knocking on the door. (The cutoff for making the list was $900 million.) Stephane Fitch, an editor of Forbes’s rich list, says the magazine bases its rankings on the estimated fair market value of a person’s assets, including stocks, bonds, and real-estate holdings. The magazine then deducts any debts on those assets to settle on its final rankings.

For the 19 Chicagoans who made the list, we wanted to know a little more. So we gathered information on how they made (or inherited) their fortunes, and how, in many cases, they’re giving some of their money back through charities. Taken together, the Chicagoans in the Forbes 400 have a combined net worth of $37.6 billion, according to the magazine-big buckaroos but still about $13 billion short of Bill Gates, whose $51-billion fortune tops the list.

Three Chicagoans who made the 2004 list fell off in 2005: Robert Galvin, Motorola’s former and longtime CEO; John Krehbiel Jr., cochairman of the Lisle-based Molex; and Michael Heisley Sr., the Heico Companies’ chairman. In 2005, two Chicagoans made the list for the first time: Mansueto, who joined the exclusive club at number 384, and the real-estate mogul Matthew Bucksbaum (ranked 109th), who should have been included on previous years’ lists but wasn’t. “It was a bit of an oversight,” Fitch admits.

“If you subtract the Pritzkers, what you’ve got is a list of self-made millionaires and billionaires, which I think says that Chicago, despite its reputation as the capital of the old economy, is still a place you can get incredibly wealthy if you have new ideas and new approaches to business,” Fitch says.

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