Among Forbes 400 billionaires, Florida gaining favor as a place to call home

Published October 4 2016
Updated October 4 2016

Only five years ago, Florida was home to 29 billionaires on the Forbes 400. Now 40 billionaires — 10 percent of the new 2016 Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans — claim Florida as their residence.

Sure, the weather here is nice. But it's the lack of state income tax and low inheritance taxes that really lure more of the wealthy here. For comparison, 90 of the Forbes 400 billionaires reside in heavily taxed California.

Tampa Bay's billionaire numbers are growing, too. Newcomers Robert Duggan and Todd Christopher, both identified by Forbes as living in Clearwater, are new Floridian billionaires this year.

Duggan, a serial entrepreneur and investor, controlled a California anti-cancer drug company called Pharmacyclics that he sold to the pharmaceutical firm AbbVie in 2015 for $21 billion. That deal bumped the net worth of Duggan, 72, to $2.6 billion, ranking him No. 264 on the Forbes 400 list. According to Bloomberg news coverage, Duggan is one of the Church of Scientology's biggest donors.

Also new to the Clearwater billionaire scene is Christopher, 53. He sold his local hair care products company Vogue International to giant Johnson & Johnson this past June for $3.3 billion. Forbes pegs the new billionaire's net worth at $2 billion, ranking No. 353 on its list.

Rounding out Tampa Bay's billionaire list are three more familiar names. In Tampa, and still ranked as the area's richest billionaire at No. 204 is Edward DeBartolo, Jr., 69. His $3.2 billion in wealth remains built on real estate and shopping centers, though he slipped from No. 194 in the 2015 rankings.

Another local billionaire is Tampa's Kenneth Feld, 67, who as chairman of Feld Entertainment helps oversee such diverse shows as Disney on Ice, Barnum & Bailey circus and Monster Jam truck shows. Annually, his company puts on 5,000 shows for 30 million people worldwide. Forbes pegs his net worth at $2.7 billion, ranking him at No. 246. That's a sharp gain. Feld ranked No. 375 last year.

In addition, there's St. Petersburg's Ronald Wanek, 75, with a net worth of $2.1 billion. He is one of the primary owners of the Ashley Furniture chain.

Finally, three thoughts on the new Forbes rankings:

1. Bill Gates remains the richest American with $81 billion. The richest billionaire in Florida is again Thomas Peterffy of Palm Beach who made his $12.6 billion fortune via a discount brokerage. He ranks No. 32 on the national list.

2. Only two of the 40 billionaires residing in Florida are women: Katherine Tanner, worth $1.8 billion, inherited a stake in Cargill, the largest private company in America; and Carol Jenkins Barnett is the daughter of George Jenkins, who founded Publix Super Markets. She is worth $1.7 billion.

3. After Bill Gates, the richest in America are Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ($67 billion), Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett ($65.5 billion) and, at only 32, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg ($55.5 billion).

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

   
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