Rules of the hunt

Forbes - - PROMOTION -

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 That’s also where you can find more in­for­ma­tion on list mem­bers, in­clud­ing ad­di­tional pho­tos, videos and cov­er­age of these in­flu­en­tial bil­lion­aires.

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