The 2015 version of the Forbes 400 List, a ranking of the 400 wealthiest Americans, was released earlier this week. Bill Gates retained the top spot, which he has held for over two decades, and there were many other familiar faces throughout the list.
While Forbes puts the spotlight on the individuals, it can be more interesting for an investor to look at the companies that are driving the wealth of the uber-rich (Uber founder Travis Kalanick doubled his net worth to $6 billion this year, but no pun intended).
While the list is riddled with household names, the top 20 are particularly notable and include founders and CEOs of some of the largest companies in the world. Below is a list of the stocks represented by people in the top 20 of this year's Forbes 400, listed in order of their current Zacks Rank:
Nike ( NKE ) - Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)
Nike, a leader in shoes and athletic gear, is near the top of the list due to the wealth of founder Phil Knight. The success of Nike is a unique story, and with a net worth of $24.4 billion, Knight can afford to tell it plenty of times. A native of Oregon, Knight transformed his once small shoe-selling "Blue Ribbon Sports" into one of the most recognizable brand names in the world. Knight stepped down as Nike's CEO in 2004, and in June he announced that he would be stepping down as chairman of the board.
Google ( GOOGL ) - Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)
Google is brought to the top of the list by its cofounders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. These old college buddies still own about 14% of the company's shares. Following the restructuring of the company, Page now serves as the CEO of Alphabet, Inc. and Brin is the President of the new company. Sitting at #11 and #10 on the list, Brin and Page have a combined net worth of over $65 billion.
Amazon ( AMZN ) - Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)
Following a successful second quarter that saw Amazon post a surprise profit, CEO Jeff Bezos was the biggest winner. Amazon is now the biggest retailer in the world, and Bezos added $16.5 billion to his net worth in one year. Bezos was the biggest gainer on the Forbes 400 List this year, but it hasn't been all fun and games for him. Recently, the New York Times published a story criticizing the grueling office culture at Amazon and Bezos may be nervous about his public perception. Oh well, he can wipe his brow with a couple of hundred dollar bills.
Microsoft ( MSFT ) - Zacks Rank #3 (Hold)
Perpetual richest American Bill Gates and former CEO Steve Ballmer help put the Microsoft name near the top of the Forbes List. Ballmer has moved on to own the Los Angeles Clippers NBA franchise, and Gates is still trying to save the world through his incredible charitable foundation. Turns out, if you create and manage one of the most revolutionary software companies in history, you are going to get a nice paycheck.
Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.B ) - Zacks Rank #3 (Hold)
Warren Buffett, a good friend of Bill Gates that just can't seem to dethrone him from the top spot, sits at #2 on the list, a position he has occupied since 2001. Buffett is the wise CEO and largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway, one of the largest holdings companies in the world. If you care about investing at all, you've heard of Buffett and his interesting quotes and tips about the market. His net worth of $62 billion also makes him noteworthy.
Oracle ( ORCL ) - Zacks Rank #3 (Hold)
The Oracle Corporation is a massive software company that is most recognized for its database management systems. Founder Larry Ellison stepped down as CEO last year, but we can assume he still has some pull over there. Either way, his $45.6 billion net worth is good enough to put him at #3 on the Forbes 400 list.
Facebook ( FB ) - Zacks Rank #3 (Hold)
Mark Zuckerberg, everyone's favorite Jesse Eisenberg lookalike, also had a pretty good year. One of the youngest members of the Forbes 400, Zuckerberg has made himself a household name from the success of Facebook. Recently, Facebook hit a major milestone: one billion active users logged on in one day. If each of those users were to congregate and hold 40 dollars in their hand, they would have Zuckerberg's net worth.
Las Vegas Sands ( LVS ) - Zacks Rank #3 (Hold)
Led by the enigmatic chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands is one of the world's largest casino brands. With iconic properties in Vegas and Macau, Las Vegas Sands dominates the major gambling hotspots. Adelson himself is very rich and very politically active, making no bones about his opinions and who he supports.
Wal-Mart ( WMT ) - Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell)
Walmart is represented by a handful of the top 20, as the heirs to founders Sam and Helen Walton have divided up the family fortune. Christy Walton, Jim T. Walton's widow, sits at #14, while siblings S. Robson Walton (#13), Alice Walton (#12), and Jim Walton (#9) all fall ahead of her. It's a mystery who pays for dinner when this family goes out to eat, as each has a net worth north of $30 billion.