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Nearly Half Of America’s Richest Billionaires Have Fortunes In These Two Industries

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Billionaires get rich doing all sorts of things, from selling roofing supplies to making energy drinks. But some industries are more likely than others to put someone on The Forbes 400 ranking of America’s richest people. So Forbes poured over this year’s list to rank the  sectors in which Forbes 400 members have built their fortunes.

The best route to riches? Finance and investments. More than a quarter of the wealthiest people in America made their money in this industry, which includes hedge funds, private equity and money management. In other words, making money for others tends to pay well. The 103 finance and investment billionaires on the list include traditional stalwarts like Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn, plus newer billionaires such as private equity CEO Ramzi Musallam and Susquehanna International Group founder Jeff Yass. And the latest bunch of finance giants: the crypto billionaires. As bitcoin reached new heights and crypto branched into the mainstream, six new billionaires on the list have crypto to thank for their fortune, including Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and 29-year-old Sam Bankman-Fried. 

Then there’s technology. 

No sector has made an impact on the Forbes 400 rankings quite like tech has over the past decade. One-fifth of the richest people in America got rich in tech, up from less than 8.5% in 2009. Seven of the top ten on the list hail from tech, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg—and 11 new tech billionaires joined the ranks this year. George Kurtz built a $4.1 billion fortune by helping to hunt down the world’s hackers with his cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike. Pinterest cofounders Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra landed on the list after the social network saw its shares jump 107% since it went public in 2019 (Forbes used share prices from September 3, 2021 to compile The Forbes 400 list this year.)

Selling stuff we all need, such as food and clothes, is also good business if you can do it at scale. Thirty-eight billionaires got rich in the food and drink industry—the third most popular sector for Forbes 400 members. That includes Chick-fil-A heirs Dan Cathy, Bubba Cathy and Trudy Cathy White and Little Caesar’s Pizza cofounder Marian Ilitch. Fashion and retail is next, helmed by the Waltons, heirs to the Wal-mart fortune, plus newcomer Gary Friedman, CEO of Restoration Hardware.

Here are the industries with the most Forbes 400 members (net worths are as of September 3, 2021):

Finance and Investments

103 billionaires

25.75% of the list

Collective net worth: $846.9 billion

The richest: Warren Buffett $102 billion

Technology

80 billionaires

20% of the list

Collective net worth: $1.6 trillion

The richest: Jeff Bezos $201 billion

Food and Drink

38 billionaires

9.5% of the list

Collective net worth: $242.2 billion

The richest: Jaqueline Mars $31.8 billion and John Mars $31.8 billion

Fashion and Retail

31 billionaires

7.75% of the list

Collective net worth: $477.6 billion

The richest: Jim Walton $68.8 billion, Alice and Rob Walton

Media and Entertainment

26 billionaires 

6.5% of the list

Collective net worth: $254.6 billion

The richest: Michael Bloomberg $70 billion

Real estate

24 billionaires

6% of the list

Collective net worth: $122.4 billion

The richest: Donald Bren $16.2 billion

Energy

17 billionaires

4.25% of the list

Collective net worth: $97 billion

The richest: Harold Hamm $11.4 billion

Manufacturing

16 billionaires

4% of the list

Collective net worth: $84.6 billion

The richest: Steven Rales $10.1 billion

Healthcare

15 billionaires

3.75% of the list

Collective net worth: $109.2 billion

The richest: Thomas Frist $20.8 billion 

Sports

13 billionaires

3.25% of the list

Collective net worth: $71.2 billion

The richest: Stanley Kroenke $10.7 billion