In part 2 of America’s 50 wealthiest people, we scoured the Internet to find out more about these compelling life stories: was the wealth inherited or was it self-made? And if they made their own wealth, how did they achieve it? Opportunity often knocks once. You have to identify it and take it or risk letting it pass you by. Take a few tips from these affluent people’s stories and power through your week. The American dream is within reach for each and every one of us. We just have to reach out and grab it!
Disclaimer: Some numbers can be different from Forbes, but this article follows the numbers provided by Movoto’s map. Click here for the 50 wealthiest people in America, by state: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4 and the last part.
40. West Virginia: James (Jim) C. Justice – $1.6 Billion
Jim Justice is the only billionarie in West Virginia. He made his money by joining his father’s coal mining company, Bluestone Industries Inc. and Bluestone Coal Corporation, in 1976 and taking over in 1993. He sold much of his coal mining business to a Russian company called Mechel OAO for $436 million in cash and $240 million in preferred shares in 2009, the same year that he bought a struggling resort, The Greenbrier. He still owns agricultural enterprises in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina under the parent James C. Justice Companies, Inc. He built a traning camp complex for $30 million of “his own money” in Greenbrier, WV where the NFL Saints trained this year.
39. Rhode Island: Jonathan Nelson – $1.8 Billion
The mind behind Providence Equity Partners, a private-equity firm which he founded in 1989, he made his fortune by buying and selling media and telecom properties. Today, Providence manages $40 billion in assets and holds stakes in TV provider Univision and education platform Blackboard. He is a Rhode Island native who studied economics at Brown University and received his MBA from Harvard.
38. Kentucky: Bradley Hughes; the self-storage king – $2.3 Billion
Do you own a storage unit? If you do, then chances are that you have helped build Bradley Hughes’ fortune. He founded Public Storage in 1972 and has turned it into the largest self-storage chain the world. The company has over 2,200 locations across the U.S., with some in Puerto Rico and Europe as well. He is currently Chairman Emeritus of his company; his daughter, Tamara Gustavson, is board member and the single largest shareholder.
But storage units are not all Hughes is about. He also saw another opportunity during the real estate crash of 2009 and the increase in rental demand: in 2011, he joined with the Alaska Pension Fund and formed a publicly traded REIT called American Homes 4 Rent. He also founded ACE, a real-estate management company. And, he’s a lover of thoroughbred horse racing. He owns a farm in Livingston, KY where his championship horses reside.
(Photo: Lexington History Center)
37. Mississippi: Leslie Lampton; oil and diversification tycoon – $2.4 Billion
The owner of Vicksburg Refinery and around 500 wells in East Texas and Louisiana, Leslie Lampton’s wealth also comes from his company Ergon Inc., which specializes in refining and distributing petroleum products, and manufacturing products such as road maintenance equipment. He founded Ergon Inc. in 1954 with just two employees. Today, the company has more than 2,000. Some of the companies that are associated with Ergon include: Crafco, Inc.; Lampton-Love, Inc.; Diversified Technology, Inc.; Lion Oil; and Tricor Refining. He graduated in 1948 from the University of Mississippi.
(Photo: Downtown Jackson, Mississippi)
36. South Carolina: Anita Zucker; part-heiress, part-self-made billionaire – $2.7 Billion
Anita Zucker’s wealth is part-inherited from her husband Jerry, who founded InterTech Group in 1982, and part self-made. After her husband’s death of a brain tumor in 2008, she became the CEO of InterTech and her son, Jonathan, the president. The company specializes in chemicals, commercial real estate, manufacturing and aerospace parts production. They also own the largest solar farm in South Carolina, TIG Sun Energy, which opened in January 2014; the Carolina Ice Palace; and 50 percent of the South Carolina Stingrays, a minor league hockey team.
(Photo: Charleston, SC plantation oak tree in spring)
35. Pennsylvania: Mary Alice Dorrance Malone; Campbell’s heiress – $3 Billion
Granddaughter of former Campbell’s Soup President John T. Dorrance, who bought the company from his uncle in 1914, Mary Alice Dorrance Malone is enjoying her inherited fortune. The family still holds approximately half of the outstanding shares of Campbell stock. Mary Alice spends much of her time at the Iron Spring Farm in West Philadelphia, where she breeds championship horses.
(Photo: A Sotheby’s technician walks past a set of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup screen prints at the auction rooms in London, 2013. The set of ten screen prints was estimated at $152,000 – $228,000. AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
34. Iowa: Harry Stine; the seed emperor – $3.1 Billion
Harry Stine grew up on his father’s farm outside of Des Moines, Iowa and began seed breeding in the 1960s. Stine is known for his genius in seed genetics, having built some of the most genetically robust and highest-yielding soybean seeds in the industry. In the 1990s, he landed lucrative deals licensing the genetics to companies like Monsanto and DuPont.
He has dyslexia and is mildly autistic, but it’s his mathematical genius that shines through. He owns a small home very close to Stine Seed’s headquarters and drives a Ford F-150 to work. He graduated from a small liberal arts school in Kansas, McPherson College, and credits his success to having a diverse background and adapting quickly to changing environments.
33. Vermont: John Abele; revolutionizing medicine – $3.3 Billion
A pioneer developer of medical devices, John Abele co-founded Boston Scientific in 1979, a biotech firm that manufactures catheters, balloons, stents and other medical equipment. He had been the director of the company from 1979 to 2011. Today, he serves as Director Emeritus as requested by the board. His opportunity at starting his ascent into super-rich status came along with his cofounder, Peter Nicholas: they enlisted doctors willing to be early adopters of the new medical technology and built a marketing plan around that to get others in medicine to accept these radical innovations. He currently is applying the same concept to other industries such as education and alternative energy. He double-majored in physics and philosophy at Amherst College.
32. Maryland: Ted Lerner; the Washington Nationals – $4.6 Billion
The owner of 20 million square feet of commercial and retail space, hotels and 7,000 apartments, Ted Lerner started out with $250 dollars, which he borrowed from his wife to start a real estate company. Lerner Enterprises is now the largest private real estate developer in the Washington, D.C. area. It wasn’t until after he sold 22,000 homes that he decided to go into the building industry. The son of a Palestinian immigrant, he was in the Army during World War II, stationed at Fort Hood. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from George Washington University, and sold real estate during the weekends to support his mother (his father died when Ted was 21-years-old). He is also the managing principal owner of the Washington Nationals.
(Photo: Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner, top right, watches the baseball game between the Florida Marlins and the Washington Nationals, 2006, in Washington. AP Photo/Nick Wass)
31. Arizona: Bruce Halle, the Discount Tire king – $4.8 Billion
The founder and chairman of Discount Tire, he opened his store with just six tires in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1960. Today, his retail empire, which was built on customer service and repeat business, has more than 875 stores in 28 states. They are easily recognizable by their little old lady TV ad in which she throws a tire through a store window. The ad has been running for more than 35 years and has earned a longevity record from the Guinness Book of World Records (watch it above).