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Telling Fortunes

The Forbes Methodology

Forbes 400 net-worth estimates are a snapshot of each list member’s wealth on August 23. Some members will become richer or poorer within days of publication. To compile its rankings, Forbes started with a list of more than six hundred individuals considered to be strong candidates, then met with them in person when possible and also interviewed their employees, handlers, rivals, peers, and attorneys. Forbes staff pored over Securities and Exchange Commission documents, court records, probate records, federal financial disclosures, and Web and print stories, taking into account all assets they could value and factoring in debt. To value privately owned businesses, Forbes coupled estimates of revenues or profits with prevailing price-to-revenue or price-to-earnings ratios for similar public companies. Forbes did not include dispersed family fortunes when individual net worths were below its minimum of $1.3 billion, but it did include wealth belonging to a member’s immediate relatives if the wealth could be traced to one living individual; in that case “and family” serves as an indication. Forbes discounts shares that are pledged against debts.

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