Trump drops off Forbes 400 rich list for first time in 25 years

Donald J. Trump, a businessman, entertainer and then president whose personal brand has always been closely intertwined with his wealth, is no longer considered one of America’s richest people.

At least not according to Forbes.

The former president was left off the Forbes 400 list of America’s richest people for the first time in a quarter-century, the magazine reported on Tuesday (US time).

Forbes estimates that Trump’s net worth fell by about $US600 million  during the pandemic, leaving him with $US2.5 billion.Credit:AP

The business magazine estimates his net worth fell by about $US600 million during the pandemic as big-city properties – the core of his assets – lost value, leaving him with $US2.5 billion. The 400th entry on Forbes list, the Arkansas-based investment banker Warren Stephens, logged a net worth of $US2.9 billion by comparison.

Losing his spot on Forbes’ widely-followed wealth ranking marks a turn for Trump, whose money made him famous long before he entered politics.

Trump’s stewardship of a family real estate business he inherited from has father brought him world renown as a dealmaker, setting him up for a hit television show and later paving the way for his presidency. But his exact net worth has often been the subject of speculation and controversy, in part because he refused to release his tax returns when he entered office.

Trump has previously said rankings like the Forbes 400 fail to accurately estimate his holdings. In a 2015 appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Trump claimed his net worth at the time was over $US10 billion, more than twice where Forbes had placed him at the time.

“They have no idea what I own, and it’s irrelevant,” Trump said in 2015, referring to Forbes.

To his point, it can be hard to calculate net worth for individuals’ whose holdings are tied up in private companies, as is the case with the Trump Organisation.

Forbes’ job in calculating the former president’s wealth is made all the more difficult by the fractured way in which Trump’s real estate empire is organised. The Trump Organisation consists of hundreds of privately-owned corporations whose individual valuations are often disputed.

Trump’s exact net worth has often been the subject of speculation and controversy, and is made all the more difficult by the complicated structure of his empire.Credit:AP

Forbes calculated Trump’s net worth by adding up the individual properties and establishing their value based on public disclosures, conversations with local real estate agents, and others who are familiar with the local real estate market, said Dan Alexander, a senior editor at Forbes. Then they subtract any debts or related liabilities, similar to how someone might conduct a property appraisal on an old house.

“We take this approach with other real estate executives as well, but Trump probably gets the most detailed look of anybody,” Alexander said Tuesday in a phone interview.

Trump’s decision not to divest his assets when he entered office five years ago turned out to be a pivotal decision, Alexander noted. Trump opted to hang onto his company and real estate assets, then valued at $US3.5 billion, despite potential conflicts of interest his financial entanglements would create.

Had he divested those assets and invested the money in a simple S&P 500 market-tracking index fund the day he entered the White House, he would be worth about $US7 billion today, according to Forbes. His refusal to divest ended up costing him about $US2 billion, according to Forbes.

There were 24 other real estate magnates who did make the list despite pandemic-related headwinds, such a Washington D.C.‘s Ted Lerner or California’s Donald Bren.

But the top echelons of America’s wealthy in 2021 made their money in the technology sector. Nine of Forbes’ 10 wealthiest Americans ― all except Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett ― founded or led a major tech firm.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, with an estimated net worth of $US177 billion, topped the list for the fourth year in a row, Forbes said. He also owns Blue Origin, an aerospace company, and The Washington Post.

Rounding out the top five are Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk ($US151 billion); Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg ($US134 billion); Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates ($US134 billion); and Google co-founder Larry Page ($US123 billion).

The Washington Post

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