Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Resort owner among wealthiest in America

Simplot and Holding among Forbes 400 richest

Express Staff Writer

Earl Holding

Sun Valley Co. owner Earl Holding is again featured on Forbes magazine's 400 Richest Americans list. Although he is reported to have increased his net worth by $8 million since last year, Holding fell four pegs, landing in the 63rd spot.

The rich continue to get richer, and for the first time in the 25-year history of the Forbes 400, $1 billion was not enough to garner a spot on the list.

Since 2005, Holding, 80, has seen his fortune more than quadruple to $5 billion, largely due his ownership of Sinclair Oil. In the past three years he has seen his net worth and his Forbes' rank go from $1.5 billion and a rank of 207, to $4.2 billion and a rank of 59 last year.

Holding is the owner of Sinclair Oil Co., Sun Valley Resort and several other high-profile properties, including Utah's Snowbasin ski area and the 395-unit Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. He also operates a chain of Little America resorts, with the flagship property located along Interstate 80 in southern Wyoming.

Forbes reports Holding bought Sun Valley Resort for $12 million in 1977, less than some houses in the valley today. Sun Valley Resort is now estimated to be worth more than $300 million.

Idaho's only other representative on the list is 98-year-old John Richard Simplot, the Boise-based potato tycoon who dropped out of school in eighth grade to sort potatoes. He then moved on to raise hogs and saved up to buy his first potato field. By the age of 30, he was a millionaire. Today his Simplot's potatoes provide a third of the french fries sold around the country. Simplot is estimated to be worth $3.6 billion and is ranked the 89th richest American.

The cost of admission to this year's list is $1.3 billion, $300 million more than last year. The total worth of the 400 richest Americans is $1.54 trillion, which is equivalent to the entire United States' gross domestic product in 1947, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Perennial No. 1, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, remained atop the list for the 14th straight year with a net worth estimated at $59 billion. Despite several huge charitable contributions, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., remained in second place with an estimated $52 billion.

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