Billionaires in the Making

Forbes

This elite group of tech moguls, hedge-funders, athletes and entertainers are hovering under billionaire status with a strong chance of breaking into the Forbes 400 ranks this decade.

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There's making it big. Then there's making the Forbes 400. From Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to Steve Jobs and Nike's Phil Knight, our annual list of the richest people in America is home to icons of technology, investing and industry, with a entry level of $1 billion to make it on the list. It's an elite group, but it's hardly permanent.

Thanks to death and declining fortune, this year 34 members of the 2009 edition were off the list. And over time business cycles and the radical reshaping of the economy lead to even more tectonic shifts. In 1982 the total net worth of the Forbes 400 was $127 billion, with energy fortunes representing 21.6% of the total. This year the total net worth of the list was $1.4 trillion, and finance and investments led the way, responsible for 25.5%.

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So who's waiting in the wings? Based on our research, we see 15 people as likely candidates to breach the billion-dollar barrier in the coming years. Call it the Forbes 400 Farm Team. On it are some of the biggest names in entertainment, sports' most branded athletes and businessmen on the brink of making it very big. This elite group of tech moguls, hedge-funders, athletes and entertainers is hovering under billionaire status with a strong chance of breaking into the Forbes 400 ranks this decade, including some well-known names such as Jay-Z, Jerry Seinfeld, Tiger Woods and James Cameron.

Jerry Seinfeld, with an estimated net worth of $800 million, is a very likely bet. His TV show about nothing has earned $2.7 billion in 12 years and could take in $200 million more a year, thanks to syndication payments. Seinfeld has spent some of his portion buying up New York real estate and has a four-car garage (in Manhattan!) for his fleet of vintage motors. The cash-rich star may need another hit: The Marriage Ref wasn't it.

Another likely candidate is producer Jerry Bruckheimer, worth $850 million. The Hollywood producer's blockbuster franchises, like Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure, have generated $9 billion at the global box office, with more to come. TV hits include the CSI franchise, Without a Trace and Amazing Race. Director James Cameron moved a lot closer with the release of Avatar, which earned $2.7 billion at the box office and is the bestselling Blu-ray disc of all time. His older films, including Titanic, have earned a combined $3 billion. We estimate his current net worth at $650 million.

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With $450 million and a career trajectory aimed right at the sky, we expect Jay-Z could make the list one day as well. Jay-Z has elevated hip-hop to rock arenas, packing ballparks with Eminem this summer. If he keeps selling out monster shows, money will rain down on all his ventures: the Roc Nation label, a back catalog (ownership reverts to him in 2014), Rocawear clothing royalties, a stake in the New Jersey Nets. He'll score nicely if a suitor buys Carol's Daughter, a hot beauty care line backed by Jay-Z and other celebs. He and wife Beyonce Knowles may already be music's first billion-dollar couple.

From sports we see two very familiar names: Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, each worth $500 million, as likely list members one day soon. Jordan, the former Chicago Bulls wonder, earned $90 million in salary during his playing career. Most of his fortune now derives from endorsement deals with his biggest sponsor, Nike ( NKE - News); he raised his stake in the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats to 80% this year.

Woods' fortune took a beating his year. His agents, the tax man and recently divorced wife Elin Nordegren have all gotten pieces of his $130 million in career prize money and $900 million in revenue from endorsements, appearance fees and golf course design business since 1996. But he will make it to 10 figures if he starts winning again and sponsors return.

The fastest-rising member of this year's 400 was 26-year-old Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who's net worth sprung from $2 billion last year to $6.9 billion this year. Other social media mavens will likely follow his path in the years ahead. Sean Parker, cofounder of Napster ( NAPS - News) and Plaxo, was the Silicon Valley veteran who joined Facebook in 2004 as its founding president and helped it navigate initial funding. He left in 2005 for venture capital but still has a 4% stake, pushing his net worth to $920 million.

Right behind him at $850 million is Mark Pincus, the love-him-or-hate-him leader of Internet's most popular gaming site, Zynga, named for his late bulldog. Pincus' fourth startup, it grosses some $500 million from virtual goods and promotions with 7-Eleven, Target ( TGT - News) and MTV. "FarmVille," "FrontierVille" and "Zynga Poker" are its most popular games, and it's worth an estimated $5 billion right now.

Then there's Reid Hoffman. A former executive at Apple ( AAPL - News) and PayPal, Hoffman cofounded LinkedIn in 2003; networking site started making money three years later and now has 75 million users; about half its members are outside the U.S. Tiger Global Management bought 1% of the firm in July, valuing it at $2 billion. Hoffman's estimated worth: $340 million.

 

SEAN PARKER

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Facebook

Estimated net worth: $920 million

Cofounder of Napster and Plaxo, Parker was the Silicon Valley veteran who joined Facebook in 2004 as its founding president and helped it navigate initial funding. He left in 2005 for venture capital but still has a 4% stake. Justin Timberlake plays Parker in the upcoming film "The Social Network."

 

 

MARK PINCUS

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Zynga

Estimated net worth: $850 million

Love-him-or-hate-him leader of Internet's most popular gaming site, Zynga, named for his late bulldog. Pincus' fourth startup, it grosses some $500 million from virtual goods and promotions with 7-Eleven, Target, MTV. "FarmVille," "FrontierVille" and "Zynga Poker" are its most popular games.

 

 

JERRY BRUCKHEIMER

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Movies, TV

Estimated net worth: $850 million

The Hollywood producer's blockbuster franchises, like "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "National Treasure", have generated $9 billion at the global box office, with more to come. TV hits include the "CSI" franchise, "Without a Trace" and "Amazing Race."

 

 

JERRY SEINFELD

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Television

Estimated net worth: $800 million

His TV show about nothing has earned $2.7 billion in 12 years and could take in $200 million more a year, thanks to syndication payments. Seinfeld has spent some of his portion buying up New York real estate and has a four-car garage (in Manhattan!) for his fleet of vintage motors. The cash-rich star may need another hit: "The Marriage Ref" wasn't it.

 

ERIC LEFKOFSKY

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Groupon

Estimated net worth: $750 million

Chicago investor is cofounder and 30% owner of the fastest-growing company ever, Web phenom Groupon, which updates its online audience about deep discounts on products and services. His venture fund, Lightbank, has stakes in 11 companies, including two now public ones: Innerworkings and Echo Global Logistics. As for being outed as an almost-billionaire: "It's a good thing and a bad thing."

 

 

WILLIAM ACKMAN

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Hedge Fund

Estimated net worth: $700 million

Ackman may get control of Manhattan's giant apartment complex Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village. His Pershing Square Capital Management, with a partner, picked up $300 million of its junior debt and launched a foreclosure proceeding, but they may get beaten out by more senior creditors. A judge is set to rule soon. Whatever happens, the hedge fund tycoon has raised his profile.

 

 

DENNIS GILLINGS

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Quintiles

Estimated net worth: $700 million

Gillings founded privately held Quintiles, to which the drug industry outsources clinical trials. With $2.8 billion in annual revenue, it is the largest and most influential company in its field.


 

 

RAY R. IRANI

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Occidental Petroleum

Estimated net worth: $700 million

Angrier shareholders will cheer when Irani, the third-highest-paid U.S. CEO of the past decade, sets a future retirement date this fall. He'll still get paid like a prince for years. Irani's $600 million in Oxy shares could benefit from a potential 1-billion-barrel find near Bakersfield, Calif., and high oil prices.

 

Click here to see the full list of Billionaires in the Making

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