As far as metrics for assessing the health of state economies go, how many of a state’s residents place on Forbes‘ list of the 400 Richest Americans is not a particularly good one. That’s good news, because if it were, Texas would be on the decline.
Last year, the list of the 400 richest people in America included 41 Texans, which meant that those of us who are not billionaires could at least take some satisfaction in the fact that we were all sleeping under the same big Texas sky as so many whose lives are filled with the glory of financial excess. But, alas, the new list from Forbes is out now, and for whatever reason, there are only 39 Texans on it. That’s also down from a whopping 46 in 2012, which means that the rareified air of Texas is getting less prestigious by the year.
The reason for the decline is easy to explain: perennial top-100 placer Harold Simmons is missing from the list because he passed away last December. Meanwhile, the Wilks Brothers, who enjoyed a net worth of $1.5 billion in 2013, each saw that number slide to a paltry $1.4 billion this year, dropping them nearly 1,000 spots on the list.
You’ll be relieved to know that it’s not all doom and gloom for the richest Texans, though: At the top of the list, Alice Walton (of the Wal-Mart Waltons, #1 in Texas and #8 overall) watched her net worth balloon up to $35.2 billion, up from $33.5 in 2013 (and up from a mere $26.3 billion in 2012); even Michael Dell (#2 in Texas, #24 overall), whose company has been beleaguered by layoffs this year, was able to see his net worth spike from $15.9 billion to $17.5, which is surely some consolation to him in these trying times. Even pipeline magnate Richard Kinder, who slid from the third-richest man in Texas to the fourth over the past year, hasn’t got much to complain about: His 2013 net worth of $10.2 billion jumped to $10.9 billion in 2014—it’s just that banker Andrew Beal, who had been #5 behind Kinder and the now-departed Simmons, had himself a really good year and went from a $9.8 billion net worth to $11.9.
In other words, you can save your tears. The wealthiest among us are all doing fine. Take, for instance, the Duncan family—Dannine Avara, Scott Duncan, Milane Duncan Frantz, and Randa Duncan Williams—who entered the list in 2010 after their father, Dan L. Duncan, passed. They saw a tidy $1.5 billion jump in their respective net worth, which climbed from $5.5 billion to a cool $7 billion, a satisfyingly round number. Even the more famous—if less fabulously-wealthy—billionaires in our great state have had years to crow about: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones now sits on $4.2 billion to complement his 3-1, first-place team; Mark Cuban—even after reacquiring Tyson Chandler—still has $2.7 billion to play with; Texans owner Robert McNair may not have a quarterback, but his net worth still shot up from $2 billion in 2013 to $2.4 billion this year. H. Ross Perot, meanwhile, is currently sitting on $3.9 billion, tantalizingly close to that $4 billion mark that symbolizes true success.
It’s a good time to be a billionaire, in Texas or anywhere else, really. And if fewer of our neighbors are occupying the list of the wealthiest people in the country this year than in years past, we can all take some satisfaction in knowing that the very, very rich who still love among us are all doing pretty well. As for the rest of us, well, hopefully we all have our health, right? Or love? Or something that money can’t buy?