Rules of the hunt
This is the 35th year of the flagship Forbes 400 list. Though we’ve been at it a long time, it’s always a challenge. Our reporters dig deep. This year we started with a list of more than 600 individuals considered strong candidates and got to work.
When possible, we met with Forbes 400 members and candidates in person or spoke with them by phone. We also interviewed their employees, handlers, rivals, peers and attorneys. Uncovering their fortunes required us to pore over thousands of SEC documents, court records, probate records, and Web and print stories. We took into account all types of assets: stakes in public and private companies, real estate, art, yachts, planes, ranches, vineyards, jewelry, car collections and more. We factored in debt. Of course, we don’t pretend to know what is listed on each billionaire’s private balance sheet, although some candidates did provide documentation to that effect.
Some billionaires presiding over private companies were happy to share their financial figures, but others were less forthcoming. To value these businesses, we couple revenue or profit estimates with prevailing price-to-revenue or price-to-earnings ratios for similar public companies and typically apply a 10% discount, more for those who are least transparent.
We didn’t include dispersed family fortunes. Those appear on our list of America’s Richest Families.
We did include wealth belonging to a member’s immediate relatives if the wealth could be traced to a single living person. In that case you’ll see “& family” on the list. We also include married couples who built fortunes and businesses together. In those instances, we list both names.
The Forbes 400 is a list of American citizens who own assets in the U.S. Our estimates are a snapshot of each list member’s wealth as of September 22; we used closing stock prices and currency exchange rates from that day. Some of The Forbes 400 will get richer or poorer within weeks, or even days, of publication. We track those changes online in our Real Time rankings at www.forbes.com/forbes-400. That’s also where you can find more information on list members, including additional photos, videos and coverage of these influential billionaires.