Later this month you'll hear about the Forbes Magazine Four Hundred List, an annual roster of the country's wealthiest citizens that has appeared every fall in that venerable fortnightly since 1982. A spot on that famous enumeration now requires a net worth of $400 million or more.
As usual New Mexico will be largely absent. There are plenty of reasons for this. Way under 1 percent of the country's population lives here. According to just-released U.S. Census Bureau figures, New Mexico has the country's second lowest annual median household income, $25,991, just $177 above bottom-place Arkansas. To a significant degree, individual accumulations of vast wealth are dependent on a given area's general income level (hence the large number of persons on the Forbes list from California and New York). There is very little Old Money here, and what pockets of it exist tend to veer decidedly toward the modest.
Although things are changing slowly, New Mexico still lacks an entrepreneurial tradition. After all, upwards of one-third of all employees in the state work for some level of government, itself hardly known for innovative business techniques. This makes it more difficult to raise capital and start a business that can generate great wealth for its owners. So New Mexico-based businesses tend to stay small. Indeed, the New Mexico retail operations of Pepsico -- Taco Bell and Pizza Hut -- remain one of the state's largest private employers.
Still, thanks in no small part to the big income disparities here, there is real private money in New Mexico, and it deserves to be recognized. So this month, we modestly present the inaugural Crosswinds Twenty-Five. To our knowledge, it's the first-ever published list of the wealthiest New Mexicans. It essentially starts just about where the Forbes Four Hundred ends. Just as importantly -- for both historical and inspirational reasons -- we try to describe how the fortune came to be about. Accompanying our list is an article detailing persons who you might have expected to make the list but who missed it for one reason or another. We intend that our project will become an annual event.
HOW WE PICKED THEM
As it turns out, a spot on the Crosswinds Twenty-Five requires a net worth of $25 million or more. The person, or in the case of a family, some of its members, must be bona fide New Mexico residents (a state driver’s license and/or voter registration helps). This definition excludes much of the Hollywood crowd and Texas tycoon bunch around Santa Fe. Many of them are eager to avoid New Mexico's relatively high taxes on personal income and gross service business receipts, anyway. Also excluded -- but noted in the accompanying story -- are carpetbaggers like media baron Ted Turner, the state's largest individual landowner.
The average wealth per entry on this list is about $91 million, which as usual with these kinds of projects masks some interestingly wide disparities. Despite our most diligent efforts, we found no New Mexicans we could value at $1 billion, or even, unlike each of our five neighboring U.S. states, above $500 million.
Compiling this list, which took eight months, was quite a task. We talked with a lot of helpful people, who generally and quite understandably asked not to be acknowledged. Besides our own inquiries, sources included articles printed in a number of New Mexican publications, which we credit gladly. Among them: the Albuquerque Journal, The Albuquerque Tribune, the Artesia Daily Press, the Clovis News Journal, the Las Cruces Sun-News, the Roswell Daily Record, The Santa Fe New Mexican, Albuquerque Monthly, New Mexico Business Weekly, New Mexico Business Journal, New Mexico, the Santa Fe Reporter and the Santa Fean.
Out-of-state, national and international published sources included the Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, the Financial Times of London, Investor's Business Daily, The New York Times, the Denver Post, the San Antonio Express-News, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Associated Press, Bloomberg Business News, Reuters, Financial World, Forbes, Fortune, Institutional Investor, Money, Engineering News Record, Furniture Today, Hispanic Magazine, National Petroleum News, National Real Estate Investor, Pensions & Investments, and Publishers Weekly.
We found especially valuable collections of information, clippings, records or indexes in Santa Fe at the New Mexico State Library, the New Mexico Secretary of State's office, the State Corporation Commission and the state Securities Division, and in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico's business-oriented Parish Memorial Library and more general Zimmerman Library. Also useful: Filings at various regulatory agencies in Washington, including the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission.
WE PROBABLY MISSED SOME
Any first-time effort like this, of course, is bound to be laced with errors. Early on, Forbes, to whom we are truly indebted for the Rich List concept, listed a DuPont heiress who had been deceased for several years. We apologize upfront for any omissions and inaccuracies -- you can be sure they exist -- and encourage them to be brought to our attention for future editions. It is a truism of economic life and investigative journalism that smaller pots of wealth are a whole lot easier to miss than larger ones. It's sort of tough to cover up $400 million, the Forbes minimum.
No doubt, for example, we're missing a good number of what are known in Santa Fe cafe society as Trust Fund Babies -- heirs who have relocated to the City Different from other states -- as well as entrepreneurs who earned a fortune elsewhere and retired here to the good life. Some of the people on our accompanying story probably belong on the list. Over time we'll try to figure it all out.
We should also stress that the valuations here are only our own opinion, based on all the information we could gather. Net worth is defined simply as assets minus liabilities. In most cases the bulk of a person's wealth on this list consists of a single asset -- a business, a stock position, a trust or, in the case of author Tony Hillerman, a literary legacy.
Common sense rules of appraisal were applied in valuing that asset. The easiest individuals to assess were those with a big stake in a publicly held company. For those we used stock values as of late September. To some degree, of course, the number is theoretical. Persons on this list with a big stock position, particularly chief executives, would see values plummet if they tried to unload it all at once.
Concerning fortunes based on a private business, we employed standard industry multiples of our best estimate of sales, earnings or energy reserves. We allowed for presumed debt but not for the capital gains tax that would be due if a business or a large stock holding were sold at a profit. Beneficiaries of a trust were credited with their estimated share of the trust's principal.
In all cases, we tried to calculate what the listee might have taken out of that main asset over the past five years, less taxes and a reasonable standard of living. This obviously entails a fair amount of guesswork. So, for that matter, are the ages we give for many of our listees.
We also gave a representative of each serious candidate a chance to clarify, criticize or comment. In doing so we were mindful of the incredulous question of Albuquerque state representative George Buffett: ``Who's going to tell you the truth about their own wealth?'' (See the sidebar for our take on Buffett.) Not surprisingly, most declined to talk in any meaningful way. A few unsuccessfully asked not to be listed because of concerns about family safety -- even though they had spoken openly in the past to reporters about their loved ones. A lawyer for one listee actually argued with apparent sincerity that putting his clients on the list would be ``embarassing.'' This may say volumes about the average economic mindset hereabouts.
However, several individuals we were considering employed one or both of two very effective strategies: (1) Convincingly disputing tentative valuations as to themselves, or (2) identifying so many others persons worth more than themselves that they went down or even off the Top 25 list. All that said, then, here they are, the 25 richest New Mexicans. To read about them, click a group below or a name in the roster of names at the top of this page.
William P. Barrett, Special Projects Editor of Crosswinds, is a veteran national journalist who has written for such publications as Worth, Forbes, SmartMoney, Rolling Stone, Texas Monthly, the Dallas Times Herald, the Associated Press and The New York Times. A lawyer by training, he is now based in Seattle. Nick Kryloff and Ray Langley, Special Project Reporters for Crosswinds, are both New Mexican natives who studied journalism at the University of New Mexico.
The 25 Richest People in New Mexico
The CROSSWINDS 25
1. Maloof family, $450 million.
2. Yates family, $350 million.
3. Hope Rockefeller Aldrich, $250 million.
4. William D. Sanders, $200 million.
5. Andrew L. Turner, $125 million.
William Pepperday Lang, $120 million.
7. Lonnie Alsup, $110 million.
8. E.W. (Rich) Richardson, $62 million.
9. Galles family, $60 million.
10. John S. Rendall, $52 million.
11. Unser family, $50 million.
12. Blaugrund family, $45 million.
13. William R. Anixter, $42 million.
14. Theresa McBride, $40 million
15. Jury family, $38 million.
16. H. Garrett Thornburg Jr., $36 million.
17. Luthy family, $35 million.
18. Nunzio P. DeSantis, $30 million.
18. Gorham family, $30 million.
20. Papen family, $28 million.
21. Blake Chanslor, $26 million.
22. Don Brewer, $25 million.
22. Tony Hillerman, $25 million.
22. Neal M. Elliott, $25 million.
22. Gerald Peters, $25 million.
Runners-up and notables
From CROSSWINDS, New Mexico’s largest alternative newspaper
October 1996 Copyright 1996 Crosswinds Inc. All rights reserved
By William P. Barrett,
and Ray Langley
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