There's making it big. Then there's making the Forbes 400. From Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to Steve Jobs and Nike's Phil Knight, our annual list of the richest people in America is home to icons of technology, investing and industry, with an entry level of $1 billion to make it on the list. It's an elite group, but it's hardly permanent.
Thanks to death and declining fortune, this year 34 members of the 2009 edition were off the list. And over time business cycles and the radical reshaping of the economy lead to even more tectonic shifts. In 1982 the total net worth of the Forbes 400 was $127 billion, with energy fortunes representing 21.6% of the total. This year the total net worth of the list was $1.4 trillion, and finance and investments led the way, responsible for 25.5%.
So who's waiting in the wings? Based on our research, we see 15 people as likely candidates to breach the billion-dollar barrier in the coming years. Call it the Forbes 400 Farm Team. On it are some of the biggest names in entertainment, sports' most branded athletes and businessmen on the brink of making it very big. This elite group of tech moguls, hedge-funders, athletes and entertainers is hovering under billionaire status with a strong chance of breaking into the Forbes 400 ranks this decade, including some well-known names such as Jay-Z, Jerry Seinfeld, Tiger Woods and James Cameron.
Jerry Seinfeld, with an estimated net worth of $800 million, is a very likely bet. His TV show about nothing has earned $2.7 billion in 12 years and could take in $200 million more a year, thanks to syndication payments. Seinfeld has spent some of his portion buying up New York real estate and has a four-car garage (in Manhattan!) for his fleet of vintage motors. The cash-rich star may need another hit: The Marriage Ref wasn't it.
Image: Sean Parker
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