FILTHY (AND FASHIONABLY) RICH: It pays to be in fashion — quite literally.
According to Forbes’ 29th annual The World’s Billionaires List, the fashion and retail industry is one of the most lucrative sectors, with Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Walton family leading the charge with a net worth of $41.7 billion.
This story first appeared in the March 11, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Forbes said fashion and retail rank fourth behind the sectors of investments, technology and food and beverage. Other retail executives on the U.S. list include Nike Inc. cofounder and chairman Phil Knight, with an estimated $21.5 billion worth, and Revlon owner and investor Ronald Perelman at $14.5 billion. Leonard Lauder, Leslie Wexner and Ralph Lauren followed with $9.1 billion, $7.7 billion and $7 billion, respectively. Under Armour chairman and chief executive officer Kevin Plank amassed $3.2 billion, and earned a nod from Forbes, which wrote: “Under Armour revenues increased 32 percent in the last year, and profits jumped 28 percent. Rather than spending hundreds of millions on endorsement deals with star athletes as Nike and Adidas do, Plank is shelling out for technology, buying three fitness apps for $710 million since December 2012.”
Former chairman of Nordstrom, Bruce Nordstrom, made the list with $1.8 billion, as did Timothy Boyle, the ceo and president of activewear firm Columbia Sportswear ($1.5 billion), and Richard Hayne of Urban Outfitters Inc. ($1.55 billion). Sidney Kimmel, founder of the former Jones Apparel Group, is worth $1.3 billion, Forbes said. Representing the women were Jane Lauder and Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer with $1.4 billion, each, and Spanx founder Sarah Blakely and Tory Burch, both with $1 billion. Burch rival Michael Kors did not make the list this year, but former Kors stakeholders Silas Chou of Hong Kong and Canada’s Lawrence Stroll did. Chou is worth $2.5 billion and Stroll is worth $2.4 billion.
Looking globally, France’s Liliane Bettencourt, a principal shareholder in L’Oréal, is the second-richest executive in the sector with an estimated net worth of $40.1 billion. Nipping at Bettencourt’s heels is LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman and ceo Bernard Arnault with $37.2 billion. Kering’s François Pinault and family ($14.9 billion) and Chanel’s Alain and Gerard Wertheimer with $9.5 billion each follow. In fact, the fashion/ retail sector was the number-one driver of wealth in France as well as in Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the U.K.
“What always strikes me is that how much people who are succeeding and moving up the ranks are those who are selling the items we like to wear and [running] the places we like to shop,” said Forbes assistant managing editor Luisa Kroll, who heads up the wealth team that is responsible for the list.
Asked why Europe appears to have a lock on the sector, Kroll said: “It’s interesting people ask how [wealth is] doing regionally. Europe has not kept pace with Asia, but one area where Europe is a leader is they are tastemakers. Something about their sensibility translates.”
The editor acknowledged that some of those retail scions inherited their wealth, but she also pointed to newcomers such as Germany’s billionaire brothers Marc, Alexander and Oliver Samwer. With the initial public offering of their e-commerce firms Zalando and Rocket, the brothers are each listed at $1.7 billion.
In China, manufacturing counts as the number-one industry but Alibaba Group’s founder and chairman Jack Ma comes in second on its wealth list with an estimated $22.7 billion net worth. In Japan, where the top two sectors include technology and fashion and retail, the biggest gainer and richest billionaire was Tadashi Yanai, founder and president of Fast Retailing. Yanai, whose company operates Uniqlo, is worth $20.2 billion, according to Forbes.
While retail and fashion made an appearance as a top sector in most countries, media was no slouch, as the fifth largest sector in the U.S.
Top media executives included Anne Cox Chambers with $17 billion, Rupert Murdoch with $13.9 billion and Condé Nast chairman Samuel Newhouse Jr. ($9 billion) leading the pack.