America’s Richest Women
The women on The Forbes 400 are worth a record combined amount this year
The women of The Forbes 400 are the wealthiest they’ve ever been. This year, they have a combined net worth of $429.7 billion, up from $330 billion in 2018, an increase that is largely due to divorces and the deaths of spouses. There are 56 women on the list, including two who appear alongside their husbands. That’s one fewer woman than a year ago. All are worth at least $2.1 billion, the minimum to make this year’s list.
Of the women on this year’s Forbes 400, 11 are designated by Forbes as self-made, having worked to build their fortunes either on their own or with a spouse. Diane Hendricks is the richest of the self-made women on the list. She and seven others, including Gap cofounder Doris Fisher and The Wonderful Company cofounder Lynda Resnick, started and scaled businesses with their husbands. The three who created their fortunes without a spouse as partner include Oprah Winfrey; Judy Faulkner, founder of Epic Systems; and Meg Whitman, who helped build eBay in its early days as CEO.
The rest of the women inherited their fortunes from their late husbands, from other family members or through divorce. Four are actively growing their inheritance, including Laurene Powell Jobs, or working at their family businesses, like Aerin Lauder and Jane Lauder.
Four women made The 400 for the first time, including two who now rank among the nation’s two richest: MacKenzie Bezos, who debuts at No. 15, after her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Julia Koch, the widow of industrialist David Koch and the list’s richest newcomer worth $41 billion. The two other newcomers are Ross Perot’s widow Margot Birmingham Perot and Janice McNair, who inherited her late husband Bob McNair’s stake in the NFL’s Houston Texans.
Here are some of the notable women who made this year’s Forbes 400 list.
ALICE WALTON (No. 11)
Net worth: $51.4 billion
The only daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton is the richest woman in America. Her fortune increased by $6.4 billion over the past year, thanks to a nearly 25% jump in Walmart’s stock price. An art collector, she opened the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas in 2011 and has an extensive personal collection worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
JULIA KOCH (No. 13)
Net worth: $41 billion
Koch and her three children inherited a 42% stake in Koch Industries from her late husband David Koch after he died in August. David and his brother Charles helped turn their father’s industrial conglomerate into America’s second-largest private company with more than $110 billion in revenue. The Iowa native moved to New York City in the 1980s and was an assistant to the fashion designer Adolfo. Julia married David in 1996, and together they have made donations to multiple organizations, including large gifts to Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
MACKENZIE BEZOS (No. 15)
Net worth: $36.1 billion
Bezos became the third-richest woman in America after she and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ended their 25-year marriage earlier this year. In what is now the largest divorce settlement in history, Jeff transferred one quarter of his Amazon stake to her. MacKenzie, who now owns 4% of the company, signed the Giving Pledge before the divorce was finalized. “I have no doubt that tremendous value comes when people act quickly on the impulse to give. No drive has more positive ripple effects than the desire to be of service,” she wrote in the letter announcing that she will donate half her wealth to charitable causes. Bezos is an award-winning novelist and was formerly a research assistant for Toni Morrison.
LAURENE POWELL JOBS (No. 22)
Net worth: $21.3 billion
Powell Jobs inherited billions of dollars of stock in Apple and Disney from her late husband, Apple cofounder Steve Jobs. She is the president of Emerson Collective, a hybrid philanthropic and investing limited liability company she founded in 2016. The organization focuses on immigration, education, social justice and health reform. Emerson Collective also owns stakes in The Atlantic magazine, Axios, OzyMedia, the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals as well as in several tech startups.
DIANE HENDRICKS (No. 79)
Net worth: $7 billion
Hendricks is the richest self-made woman on The Forbes 400 for the second year in a row. In 1982, she and her husband Ken Hendricks (d. 2007) founded ABC Supply, now the largest roofing distributor in the country. Hendricks still chairs the company, which reached more than $10 billion in annual sales for the first time last year. She led the company’s two largest acquisitions, buying rival Bradco in 2010 and building materials distributor L&W in 2016.
JUDY FAULKNER (No. 207)
Net worth: $3.8 billion
Faulkner is the richest female self-made tech billionaire. She is the CEO of Epic Systems, the medical record software company she founded in 1979. The company had $2.9 billion in revenues last year; more than 250 million patients’ health records are stored using Epic software. When Faulkner signed the Giving Pledge in 2015, she said that she would donate 99% of her assets, including her stake in Epic, to a foundation.
MEG WHITMAN (No. 217)
Net worth: $3.7 billion
Whitman was CEO of eBay from 1998 to 2008, during which time the company expanded to 15,000 employees and $8 billion in revenue. Her résumé also includes executive roles at Disney, DreamWorks, Procter & Gamble and Hasbro. In 2010, she won the Republican primary in California’s gubernatorial election. Despite spending more than $100 million of her own money, she was defeated by the incumbent Democrat Jerry Brown. Whitman was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 2011 and 2017 and is now CEO of new mobile video subscription service Quibi.
LYNSI SNYDER (No. 225)
Net worth: $3.6 billion
Snyder is president of In-N-Out Burger, the fast food company founded by her paternal grandparents in 1948. Her uncle and father later ran the business, but both died by the time she turned 18. In 2010, at age 27, she took over as president. Snyder became a billionaire in 2017, after she received the final portion of her inheritance on her 35th birthday. She owns about 97% of the company and has overseen In-N-Out’s expansion to Texas and Oregon.
THAI LEE (No. 287)
Net worth: $3 billion
In 1989, Lee and her now ex-husband bought a fledgling software reseller for less than $1 million. They expanded the company into IT provider SHI International, which reached $10 billion in revenue last year. After graduating from Amherst College, she returned to South Korea and worked at an auto parts company to save up money for Harvard Business School. She received her M.B.A. in 1985, then worked at Procter & Gamble and American Express before buying what became SHI.
OPRAH WINFREY (No. 319)
Net worth: $2.7 billion
Winfrey parlayed her award-winning talk show, which ran for 25 seasons, into a media and business empire. Since the Oprah Winfrey Show ended in 2011, she started the OWN channel, which she co-owns with the Discovery network. Her Apple TV+ show Oprah’s Book Club launches in November. Her stamp of approval matters; product sales often skyrocket after a mention by Oprah.