A decade ago I compiled a list of the world’s wealthiest Mormons, based on the annual Forbes lists of the World’s Billionaires and of the 400 Wealthiest Americans. At that time there were 7 on the list, down from 8 the previous year. Now only 4 of these are left on the list.
If there are fewer Mormons on the list of the World’s Wealthiest, I think it might be a good thing.
In 2001, the wealthiest of the 7 Mormons was Jon Huntsman, Sr., who ranked at #104 on the list of the 538 world’s richest with a fortune valued at $3.8 billion. He was followed by James L. Sorenson at 124 ($3.4 B), James Jannard, Roger W. Sant and Richard Peery at #292 ($1.7 B), and the Marriott brothers, Richard and Bill, at #336 and #421 respectively ($1.5 B and $1.2 B). David R. Huber had dropped off the list after briefly being the wealthiest Mormon when his company went public and its stock was wildly overpriced.
In the most recent list, the four remaining are (out of 1,210 billionaires worldwide):
- #376 James Jannard $3 B
- #651 J. Willard (Bill) Marriott $1.9 B (in the Forbes article as “John Marriott”)
- #692 Richard Marriott $1.8 B
- #833 Richard Peery $1.5 B
It is perhaps surprising for some that Huntsman, after being ranked so high on the list, has dropped off, perhaps due to the economy (Huntsman Chemical seems to have been sensitive to economic swings), Huntsman’s charity and perhaps to dividing up the fortune among the 9 children in the family. As I understand it, Huntsman Chemical is now largely run by son Peter Huntsman.
The others who dropped off the list for several reasons: Sorenson died in 2008 and left much of his fortune to charity, which dropped his heirs off the list. Sant and Huber dropped off the list because their companies stock prices declined.
It occurred to me at one point that the percentage of Mormons on this list might be some kind of estimate of how important wealth is to Mormons — Mormons are 4 of 412 Americans on the list, which is less than 1% and less than half the proportion of Mormons in the general population. But, I’m not sure that I have everyone on the current list who is Mormon, and on the list a decade ago Mormons seem to be overrepresented, so I don’t think that this is a good measure.
As for whether or not we should care, I don’t think we should make too much of it. This is an affinity list, no different from a list of football players who are Japanese or politicians who are or were Sikh. Personally, I find it interesting to know who is Mormon, but I don’t think it means anything about Mormonism at all. I also don’t think that the Yankee’s winning means much of anything about New York City (other than perhaps that there are a lot of fans here, making it possible for the team to pay high prices for players).
I have come up with one way that affinity information might be useful. In some cases it gives us a way to connect with friends and neighbors and get the conversation to Mormonism. If your friend is a baseball fan, it might help knowing what baseball players are Mormon.
Of course, I suspect many of you will disagree and suggest that these lists are not worthwhile. Make your case.