With $59 billion, Bill Gates enjoys a comfortable $20 billion lead over the second-richest American, Warren Buffett, in this year's Forbes ranking of the 400 richest Americans.
How rich is Gates? Florida's 29 billionaires on that list have a combined wealth of only about $56 billion — still less than Gates' net worth.
This year, Florida's richest guy in recent times must share that title.
Micky Arison, long No. 1 in Florida (75th nationwide), is tied as the Sunshine State's richest with Dirk Ziff. Each is worth $4.2 billion. Arison, 62, made his money building Carnival Cruise Lines into a giant. He also owns the Miami Heat NBA basketball team.
Ziff is 15 years younger. He inherited a family fortune from the Ziff-Davis publishing empire that included Popular Aviation, PC magazine and Car and Driver before father William Ziff sold most of the business for $1.4 billion. Dirk and two brothers reinvested that stake in stocks, debt, real estate, commodities, private equity and hedge funds.
The remaining 27 billionaires in Florida include many familiar names, from serial entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga (Blockbuster Video, Waste Management Inc. and AutoNation) and Tampa Bay Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer to William "Bill" Koch, whose brothers David and Charles helped bankroll the tea party.
Among the newer names on Florida's billionaire's row is Christopher Cline. Originally from West Virginia, he boasts $2.3 billion from owning Foresight Energy and its 4 billion tons of coal.
A clear majority of billionaires in this state cluster in South Florida, mostly on the east coast in places like Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and the Miami area. But a few can be found elsewhere.
Only one billionaire on the Forbes 400 list resides in Tampa Bay. That's Eddie DeBartolo, 64, with $2 billion and big stakes in real estate and (his first love) sports-related businesses.
Other notables tucked around the state are CNN founder Ted Turner, 72, with $2 billion, who lists his plantation in Lamont, east of Tallahassee as home. And Charlotte Colket Weber, 68, still lives in Ocala's horse country living off her Campbell Soup inheritance, now valued at $1.2 billion.
A bit bizarre is Florida billionaire John Henry.
Worth $1.1 billion, he owns the Boston Red Sox — the very team the Tampa Bay Rays are trying so hard to catch this week for a wild card playoff berth in Major League Baseball.
A few tidbits about Florida's billionaires:
• The oldest is Albert Ueltschi who, at 94, is worth $1.7 billion from his corporate pilot training firm FlightSafety International. He sold the business to fellow billionaire Warren Buffett.
• The youngest billionaire is Ziff, mentioned above. At 47, he is half Ueltschi's age.
• The most common sources of wealth? Building and selling a company, and real estate and financial investments.
• The more unusual sources of wealth can be found with Robert Stiller (Green Mountain Coffee), Fred DeLuca (Subway Restaurants) and Isaac Perlmutter, whose Marvel Entertainment was sold to Disney, which has turned its comic book characters like Spider-Man, Thor and Captain America into movies.
What's missing among Florida billionaires often found elsewhere? Those made rich by technology.
Robert Trigaux can be reached at email@example.com.