Bruce Murphy
Back In The News

Uihleins Are Now Billionaires

Top Republican donors join state's leading billionaires John Menard and Diane Hendricks.

By - Apr 17th, 2023 02:35 pm
Uline. Photo by Dave Reid.

Uline. Photo by Dave Reid.

For years, Richard Uihlein and his wife Elizabeth Uihlein have ranked at or near the top of the nation’s conservative donors to Republican candidates, spending $70.2 million on just the 2022 mid-term elections, as the Washington Post reported. That drove their total spending over the years to more than $190 million, which led some in the media to refer to Richard or the couple as billionaires. Yet the foremost publication when it comes to determining individual wealth, Forbes Magazine, never considered them that wealthy. That is until last August, when the magazine did a story entitled “Meet The Billionaire Couple Pumping Their Fortune Into Right-Wing Politics.”

The story noted that the couple’s Wisconsin-based company Uline “does an estimated $6.1 billion in annual sales, enough to make the pair worth $4 billion apiece, according to Forbes’ estimates.” The magazine probably learned this as it did research for its annual list of the world’s billionaires. And sure enough, its latest rankings, published this month, list the Uihleins for the first time, though their estimated fortune was reduced slightly, to $3.8 billion apiece.

That was enough to rank them in a tie for 748th place on the list along with about 15 other plutocrats worth $3.8 billion, including Marc Lasry, who recently sold his ownership share of the Milwaukee Bucks franchise. That leaves all of those tied for 748th place far, far behind the richest person on the planet, Bernard Arnault of France, worth a staggering $211 billion, wealth earned from “the LVMH empire of 75 fashion and cosmetics brands, including Louis Vuitton and Sephora,” the story notes.

On the other hand the Uihleins are well ahead of the long list of folks tied for 2,540th place on the list, with a net worth of a measly $1 billion.

As these numbers suggest, the list of the world’s billionaires has exploded in the last decade, adding lots more work for those tireless number crunchers at Forbes, though the number did decline slightly in the past year. “Falling stocks, wounded unicorns and rising interest rates translated into a down year for the world’s wealthiest people,” the story notes.

“Globally, we counted 2,640 ten-figure fortunes, down from 2,668 last year. Altogether, the planet’s billionaires are now worth $12.2 trillion, a drop of $500 billion from $12.7 trillion in March 2022. Nearly half the list is poorer than a year ago, including Elon Musk, who falls from No. 1 to No. 2 after his pricey acquisition of Twitter helped sink Tesla shares,” the story noted. Musk is now worth a mere $180 billion, down from $251 billion a year earlier.

Technically the Uihleins live in northern Illinois, but as Richard grew up in metro Milwaukee and was was an heir to the family’s Schlitz brewery money and as the couple owns a vacation home in northern Wisconsin along with their company in Pleasant Prairie, they loom rather large in this state. They were big donors to Scott Walker‘s campaigns for governor and aborted run for president, as the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC) reported, and Richard spent lavishly on the campaigns of Republican Kevin Nicholson. “Uihlein flushed $4.5 million into a Super PAC, Fighting for Wisconsin, that backed Nicholson’s 2022 run for governor. In 2018, Uihlein blew nearly $11 million to back Nicholson’s unsuccessful bid to be the GOP U.S. Senate candidate,” the nonprofit watchdog group noted. And the Uihleins together spent another $4.5 million in their attempt to elect conservative Dan Kelly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The Uihlein’s net wealth puts them well behind the richest man in Wisconsin, according to Forbes, which still ranks hardware chain magnet John Menard Jr. as number one in the state. The magazine estimated his net worth at $17.4 billion, up from $16.6 billion a year ago. That left Menard as the 97th richest person on the globe, with bragging rights over 2,543 billionaires ranked behind him. Menard has donated to Walker and other GOP politicians, but on nowhere near the scale of Diane Hendricks, much less the Uihleins.

Hendricks, the owner of ABC Supply Co. ranked as second richest in Wisconsin, with a fortune estimated at $13.7 billion, up from $10.7 billion the prior year. That ranked her tied for 130th wealthiest person on the planet. She gave $5 million to Walker’s run for president along with many other donations, the WDC reported and gave more than $13 million to Republican candidates over a two-year period (2020-2021) as Dan Bice reported. She has been a mainstay for Republicans in this state.

Ranking third in Wisconsin was Judy Faulkner, the founder and owner of Epic Systems Corp. in Verona, with a net worth of $7.1 billion, up from $7 billion. That left her tied for 325th place in the world. She and her husband Gordon have donated to Democratic politicians but at a level far below the giving by Hendricks, the WDC found.

Wisconsin’s old reliables on the annual Forbes list are the heirs of the S.C. Johnson fortune, H. Fisk Johnson, S. Curtis Johnson and Helen Johnson-Leipold, each worth $4.8 billion compared to $3.3 billion each in 2022.

Last year’s stock meltdown didn’t seem to affect anyone from Wisconsin on the list, all of whom saw their wealth grow. The exception was the last person on the list in Wisconsin: James Cargill II, an heir to the Cargill fortune, saw his total estimated wealth drop to $3.9 billion from $5 billion the prior year. That left him in the same ballpark as the Uihleins, who are clearly on the rise.

4 thoughts on “Back In The News: Uihleins Are Now Billionaires”

  1. gerrybroderick says:

    If Jesus’ “eye of the needle” analogy contained in the Book of Luke has any real meaning, then the Uihleins and their ilk better start investing heavily in developing biomedical methods for shrinking camels.

  2. Polaris says:

    Yeah, I guess I’m with everyone else who assumed they were already billionaires.

    It must be disheartening for people this rich to only rank 748th–and in a tie with 15 others, to boot. I think they should strive to make even more money off the backs of warehouse workers and box makers, all with their beer baron inheritance.

    Money gives most people a distorted sense of their personal value. It’s why the rest of us can look at them with pity. Take away the money and what are they, really…?

  3. Johnstanbul says:

    Two disgusting organ eating ghouls.

  4. frank a schneiger says:

    A short list of what I believe are unhappy, but confirmable facts: (1) The United States is now the most unequal major country on earth, with a tiny sliver of super-rich people at the top, another rich group, a declining and increasingly insecure middle class, and entrenched poverty. (2) Wisconsin is just a couple of public offices, think Michels and Kelly, away from being America’s only plutocratic state, with those mentioned in this article controlling things, think Scott Walker’s Koch call and Hendricks conversation with Walker. (3) We, as a country, now have a super-rich hereditary elite. See the list. And (4), in the history of the world, including Mequon and River Hills, no country has ever had these levels of income/wealth inequality and escaped massive civil violence (Source: historian Walter Scheidel, “The Great Leveler”)

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