Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

State’s 7 Richest People Worth $72 Billion

Up by 28% or a combined $16 billion in just one year.

By - Apr 8th, 2024 05:34 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

The super rich just keep getting richer: in Wisconsin, nationally and internationally.

Last week Forbes came out with its updated list of the world’s billionaires and it shows there are now 2,781 of them, 141 more than last year. And they are “richer than ever, worth $14.2 trillion in aggregate, up by $2 trillion from 2023 and $1.1 trillion above the previous record” set in 2021, the story noted.

To put this into context: the top 80 billionaires in the world own more wealth than 50% of the world, or 4 billion people.

Nearly 30% of the billionaires are from the U.S., a percentage that has been declining over the years, though the total number of American billionaires, 813, was a new record, with a combined wealth of $5.7 trillion. And seven of the those billionaires are Wisconsin residents, who are now worth a combined $72.7 billion, up by 28% in just one year: they were worth a combined $56.6 billion in 2023.

Still the richest in Wisconsin is John Menard Jr., owner of the home improvement and hardware store chain bearing his name, which brings in an estimated $13 billion in annual sales from more than 300 stores, including some four dozen in Wisconsin. Menard is now worth $25.2 billion and is the 79th richest person on the planet. His wealth has increased steadily since 2019 according to Forbes.

Still, he might be looking in his rear-view mirror as Diane Hendricks starts to catch up. She is the chair and owner of Beloit-based ABC Supply Co., one of the largest wholesale distributors of roofing, siding and windows in America, with over 900 branch locations and $18.5 billion in revenue in 2022. Hendricks now has a net worth of $20.9 billion and is the world’s 92nd richest person.

But her wealth seems to be growing faster, having nearly doubled in just two years, rising by 95% from $10.7 billion in 2022. Menard, meanwhile, saw his wealth grow by a mere 51% (from $16.6 billion) over those two years.

Ranking third in Wisconsin was Judy Faulkner, the founder and owner of Epic Systems Corp. in Verona, a suburb of Madison, with a net worth of $7.4 billion, up from $7.1 billion in 2023. Her wealth has been growing slower than for Hendricks and Menard but don’t cry for Judy: She is still the 358th richest person on earth.

Wisconsin’s old reliables on the annual Forbes list are the heirs of the S.C. Johnson wax fortune, H. Fisk Johnson, S. Curtis Johnson and Helen Johnson-Leipold. For years the three always had exactly the same net worth, but in past year Johnson-Leipold has pulled ahead of the guys, at $5 billion, leaving her ranked 612th in the world, versus $ 4.9 billion each for the other two Johnson family members, leaving them tied for 624th place. All three saw their wealth rise from $4.8 billion last year.

Last on the list was James Cargill II, an heir to the Cargill fortune, who lives in Birchwood, in Wisconsin’s North Woods. Cargill saw his total estimated wealth rise from $3.9 billion in 2023 to $4.7 billion, making him the 681st person on earth.

Several other billionaires have roots in Wisconsin, where they earn much of their wealth. Richard Uihlein, a descendent of Milwaukee’s wealthy Uihlein family, of Schlitz Brewing fame, and his wife Elizabeth Uihlein live in northern Illinois but have a vacation home in northern Wisconsin and own Uline, the Pleasant Prairie-based company which calls itself North America’s biggest distributor of shipping, packaging and industrial supplies. The money from their growing company helped them make the Forbes list of billionaires last year for the first time, but they are climbing the ladder. Their estimated wealth increased from $3.8 billion apiece in 2023 to $5.2 billion apiece this year, leaving then tied for 581st richest on earth.

Then there are three billionaires who have become wealthier due to a massive taxpayer subsidy for the Milwaukee Bucks team: the newest owner, Jimmy Haslam, has an estimated worth of $8 billion, while Wes Edens is now worth $4.3 billion and Jamie Dinan is now worth $2.1 billion.

Menard, Hendricks and the Uihleins have given heavily to conservative Republican candidates and groups. The Uihleins have been among the top such givers in the U.S., donating some $190 million over the years. Hendricks has been at the top of donors to Republican candidates in Wisconsin and Menard was singled out in the book Billionaires and Stealth Politics as an example of how billionaires use their money and power, as Urban Milwaukee reported: “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.”

All of which leaves Faulkner to stand up financially for liberal politicians: She and her husband Gordon have donated to Democratic politicians, but at a level far below the giving by Hendricks, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has found, much less trying to compete with the Uihleins.

Meanwhile the growth of wealth among the super rich gets ever more concentrated, as Forbes noted. There are now 14 super wealth people worth $100 billion compared to just one four years ago.

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2 thoughts on “Back in the News: State’s 7 Richest People Worth $72 Billion”

  1. Mingus says:

    Hendrix, Mendard and the Uihleins contribute so much to conservative causes so that the tax climate is better for billionaires. Our county is developing a class of billionaires, rich oligarchs who are immersed in conservative politics, similar to those found in totalitarian countries of Eastern Europe and Russia. The politicians they own are told to do what is best for the billionaires and not for the well being of the citizens of the United States.

  2. Duane says:

    According the the Fed’s Z1 reports (Financial accounts of the US) since the year 2000 the bottom 50 percent of wealth holders increased their wealth by $2.32T. Meanwhile the top one percent increased their wealth by $33T and the top ten percent increased their wealth by $80T.

    The latest Z1 report (Financial accounts of the US) shows the net worth of US reached a record $156T at the end 2023 while the 1Q of 2000 showed net worth at $44.4T. So while total net worth increased by $101T, for the bottom 50 percentile it only increased $2.3T. Asset price inflation, driven by monetary policy set by both the Fed and in Washington DC (by both political parties), has caused the massively uneven increase in US net worth since 2000. Not hard work.

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