Bruce Murphy
Back In The News

State’s 8 Richest People Worth $58 Billion

List of billionaires led by John Menard at $16.6 billion. Super wealthy have helped transform states like Wisconsin.

By - Apr 11th, 2022 01:31 pm

John Menard Jr. Photo by Travisvanvelzen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

John Menard Jr. Photo by Travisvanvelzen (Own work) (CC BY-SA 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons

How rich is John Menard? The owner of the Menard’s home improvement store chain is now worth $16.6 billion, the latest ranking by Forbes found. That ranks him as the 104th on its list of the world’s richest people. Menard, of course, ranks first on the list of 8 billionaires in Wisconsin, who are included in the magazine’s list of the 2,668 billionaires on the planet. Menard’s wealth grew by $2.4 billion in just the last year. Still, it may humble him to see that 103 people on earth are still richer, led by Elon Musk, who ranked first on Forbes list, with a net worth of $219 billion.

ABC Supply Co.’s owner Diane Hendricks ranked as second richest in the Dairy State and 183rd in the world, with $10.7 billion in wealth. She saw that grow by $2.7 billion over the past year, outdoing Menard in that respect. Hendricks has been a leading contributor to the campaigns of Republican politicians in Wisconsin.

Ranking third in Wisconsin and 235th in the world is the Kohler Co.‘s Herbert Kohler, Jr. and family. Sadly, his wealth dropped by $1 billion to $8.8 billion, according to Forbes.
The fourth richest in Wisconsin and ranking ahead of but 342 people on earth was Judy Faulkner, owner of Epic Systems Corp. in Verona, a suburb of Madison. Her wealth grew by $1 billion to $7 billion this year.

The state’s fifth richest plutocrat is James Cargill II, an heir to the Cargill food and beverage company fortune, whose estimated wealth grew by $1.4 billion in the last year, to a total of $5 billion. Certainly a tidy sum, but only enough to rank him in a tie for 552 place on the list of the world’s 2,668 billionaires.

Next come those old reliables, the three heirs to the S.C. Johnson fortune, who have long ranked among the state’s wealthiest: H. Fisk Johnson, S. Curtis Johnson and Helen Johnson-Leipold, each with an estimated fortune of $3.3 billion, down from $3.5 billion in the prior year’s ranking (for Fisk Johnson) and $3.6 billion for the other two. Still they are still wealthy enough to tie for 913rd richest in the world.

Three other billionaires who have become wealthier due to a massive taxpayer subsidy for the Milwaukee Bucks team are its three owners: Wes Edens saw his wealth jump from $1.2 billion to $3.4 billion in the past year, while his co-owners stayed at the same level, with Jamie Dinan worth $1.9 billion and Marc Lasry worth $1.8 billion.

Forbes noted that the list of the world’s billionaires dropped by 87, but that was mostly due to a decline in two autocracies: Russia now has 34 fewer billionaires “following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine” and in China “a government crackdown on tech companies has led to 87 fewer Chinese billionaires on the list,” the magazine noted.

Yet, if there was some drop in the super-wealthy, Forbes still found “236 newcomers who became billionaires over the past year “and “more than 1,000 billionaires who are richer than they were a year ago,” including four of the eight billionaires in Wisconsin. And “America still leads the world, with 735 billionaires worth a collective $4.7 trillion.”

That compares to a decade ago, when Forbes counted only 424 billionaires, and a decade before that, 243. “They keep multiplying, and their collective wealth grows, even, or especially, as the rest of us fall behind,” as a recent New York Times story reported. The story traces the massive growth in the super wealthy to the rise of the banking industry, helped by “the Reagan administration, which deregulated banking, cut the top income tax rate to 28 percent from 70 percent and took aim at organized labor,” weakening unions, which helped grow the wealth gap. That trend has since been exacerbated by the rise of massive, near monopoly technology companies like Google and Amazon.

The growth of wealth has been made easy by the spectacular rise of the stock market: someone worth $250 million in 1992 who parked the money in an S.&P. tracking index would be worth more than $4 billion today, the story noted.

This growth in massive wealth has had a significant impact on state and local politics, the book Billionaires and Stealth Politics has found. Its researchers pointed to Menard as an example of how billionaires use their money and power, finding that “he flexed his political power by encouraging employees to take part in training exercises whose focuses included conservative positions on things like government debt and wages. (Menards banned merit-pay increases to employees involved in unionization efforts; at one point, store managers were required to sign a contract that included a clause cutting their salary by 60 percent if their branch of the store ever unionized.) Menard also donated substantially to the Koch brothers’ political causes,” as another Times story reported.

Billionaires and Stealth Politics found that billionaires make political donations and fund groups to push a very conservative agenda, often with money that pours in from outside a state. Forty percent of all political donations now come from the very wealthiest, the top 1% of the 1% in the nation, the Times reported. “In some states, that has meant a reduction in the pensions and collective bargaining rights of public-sector workers and the rejection of Medicaid extensions.”

Sound familiar?

2 thoughts on “Back In The News: State’s 8 Richest People Worth $58 Billion”

  1. Mingus says:

    The rise of the focus on political influence by a number of billionaires in this country is similar to the Oligarchs in Russia and their influence with Putin. The common good is attacked so that these persons can continue to gain wealth and political influence. The May meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference,CPAC, is being held in Budapest with Putin ally Prime Minister Victor Orban. There is an element in the Republican Party that finds right-wing dictatorships with their brutality as somewhat appealing.

  2. Jhenry1131 says:

    (Menards banned merit-pay increases to employees involved in unionization efforts; at one point, store managers were required to sign a contract that included a clause cutting their salary by 60 percent if their branch of the store ever unionized.)

    How is this legal???

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