Only three Utahns made the 1998 Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans published Monday, but eight men have appeared on the prestigious rankings during the 1990s.
Of those, only Jon Huntsman, ranked 41st richest in 1998, down a notch from 40th place last year, and James L. Sorenson, ranked in 70th position this year, up from 74th in 1997, have made the cut every year in this decade.Here are the eight Utahns who have made the Fortune 400 list of richest Americans in the 1990s:
Jon M. Huntsman: Perennial Forbes 400 member Huntsman personifies what the magazine means when it uses the term "working rich." His "rags-to-riches" rise to the pinnacle of American business would make a worthy tale for 19th century novelist Horatio Alger. Far from resting on his laurels, Huntsman has worked hard to turn his group of companies into the largest, privately held chemical and plastics conglomerate in the world. He is also among the nation's biggest philanthropists, giving away between $30 million and $50 million a year for a variety of charitable causes.
James L. Sorenson: Medical pioneer Sorenson, also a Utah regular on the list, could have retired and lived well on the interest from his millions, but the Rexburg, Idaho, native continues to work and start new ventures while avoiding the trappings of wealth in favor of frugality. He works out of the same office in South Salt Lake that he's used for 30 years, surrounded by decor that one magazine writer described as "early insurance agent." He holds some 50 patents for various medical devices and is known to fly economy class using senior citizen discounts. Like Huntsman, he donates millions to charitable causes.
Robert Earl Holding: Ranked 231st with $781 million on last year's Forbes 400 list, Holding moved down six places this year to 237th position. A Salt Lake native, Holding worked as an apartment manager while attending West High School to earn tuition to the University of Utah. In 1952, he moved to Little America, Wyo., to run the Covey family's truck stop. He would parlay his investment in that facility into his current real estate and oil company holdings, another "self-made" man. Although reclusive by nature, he has become better known to Utahns through his Snowbasin resort and his work to help bring the 2002 Winter Games to Utah.
Leonard Samuel Skaggs Jr.: After a long run on the Forbes list, culminating with a 391st ranking in 1996 with $945 million, retail magnate and mega-philanthropist Skaggs failed to make the list in 1997, possibly because he has given so much of his money away. The Skaggs family has long been involved in the grocery and drug store business, but Sam Skaggs took the business to its highest pinnacle with American Stores. He sold out his interest in the company in 1996, and the business is now in the process of being acquired by Boise-based Albertson's. He has been cited by Fortune magazine as the second most generous man in America in terms of charitable contributions. Most recently, his foundation has funded a new Catholic elementary school and high school in the Salt Lake area and last spring gave $3.2 million to the University of Montana.
Alan C. Ashton and Bruce W. Bastian: The founders of the WordPerfect computer software program in Orem back in 1979 made the Forbes list in 1990 with what the magazine said were identical net worths of $475 million each. In 1991 their holdings had moved up to $600 million and in 1992, $840 million. But by 1996, both men had fallen off the list. WordPerfect merged with Novell and later, in 1996, Canada's Corel Corp. bought WordPerfect from Novell. Last June, Corel announced it was closing its WordPerfect research division in Orem, putting 530 people out of work and ending one of Utah's most amazing stories in entrepreneurship.
Ian M. Cumming: Cumming, who chairs Leucadia Corp. from a restored mansion on South Temple, made the Forbes 400 list by a whisker in 1995 (398th with $345 million) but dropped out the following year. Last month, Forbes said Cumming and his partner, Joseph S. Steinberg (who is based in New York) were planning on liquidating Leucadia. The Salt Lake office of Leucadia would not confirm that but did say that Cumming and his wife, Annette, were moving from Salt Lake City to Jackson, Wyo. It has been speculated in the media that the move is to avoid paying state taxes in Utah (Wyoming has no income tax) following the sale of Leucadia's assets. Cumming never gives interviews and his reasons for leaving cannot be confirmed.
Raymond J. Noorda: Noorda last appeared on the Forbes 400 list in 1996 when the retired Novell chairman ranked 391st with $425 million, down from $800 million in 1992. When Noorda joined Novell in 1983, it had revenues of $3.8 million. Ten years later, that figure had soared to $1.12 billion. Originally from Ogden, Noorda enrolled at the University of Utah following service with the navy in World War II. He built Novell's success around his view that the capabilities of computer networks would one day rely more on software than physical connections between computer hardware. At the pinnacle of his success, he was known for driving a pickup truck to work and living in a $150,000 house.