Las Vegas Billionaires Cry in their Dom Pérignon

The annual Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans for 2009 was released this week.  With deep sadness and regret Las Vegas Backstage Access reports that most Las Vegas gaming luminaries have taken multibillion-dollar net worth shellackings. billionaires

Most blamed their financial woes largely on the stock market’s collapse in 2008 and early 2009. 

Las Vegas Sands Corp. founder, chairman and chief executive officer Sheldon Adelson, 76, was the highest-ranking Nevada resident on the list, coming in at No. 26 with a net worth of $9 billion. 

But even that is chump change in comparison to Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates who tops the Forbes list with a net worth of $50 billion, followed by financier Warren Buffett, who comes in at No. 2 with $40 billion. 

By comparison, Adelson began 2008 as the third-richest person, but Forbes refigured its list later in the year and Adelson fell to 15th with a net worth of $15 billion. In March, when Forbes released its top billionaire list, Adelson was listed with a net worth of $3.4 billion. 

Las Vegas Sands avoided filing bankruptcy nearly a year ago when Adelson invested $1 billion of his own money into the company to make a debt payment. 

Kirk Kerkorian, the 92-year-old Los Angeles billionaire who owns about 43 percent of MGM Mirage, took the largest tumble of all gaming executives on the list, falling from 27th in 2008 with $11.2 billion, to 97th in 2009 with a net worth of $3 billion. 

MGM Mirage’s declining stock since the end of 2007 reduced the value of Kerkorian’s holdings in the company from $11 billion down to $1.5 billion. Other Kerkorian investments in the oil and automotive industries also suffered throughout the year. 

Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman Steve Wynn fell from 118th with $3.4 billion to 141st with $2.3 billion. “Tough year for the king of Las Vegas,” Forbes reported. 

The biggest Las Vegas challenge, according to the magazine, was opening the $2.3 billion Encore last December in the middle of the recession.  

Meanwhile, Wynn cashed out more than $100 million in shares of Wynn Resorts that will be used as part of his upcoming divorce settlement with his wife, Elaine. 

Other Las Vegas gaming industry executives making the list included former Stratosphere owner Carl Icahn, who recently became majority shareholder of Tropicana Entertainment. Icahn was 22nd with $10.5 billion in net worth. 

New York billionaire Donald Trump, who owns the Trump International Las Vegas and 30 percent of the company that controls three Atlantic City casinos, was 158th on the list with $2 billion in net worth. 

Other Las Vegans include Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin, No. 193 with $1.85 billion, and Silverton owner Ed Roski Jr., No. 236 with $1.5 billion, rounded out the list of gaming executives. 

Hilton Hotels scion Barron Hilton, who earned $800 million when the company was sold to Blackstone in 2007 and $300 million from the sale of Harrah’s Entertainment in 2008, is tied with Wynn for 141st on the list with $2.3 billion. 

Curiously, Las Vegas partier and socialite extraordinaire Paris Hilton, and even her pet monkey were left off the list. 

The only other Nevadan listed on the Forbes 400 is Henderson resident Nancy Walton Laurie, daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. She was listed in 118th place with $2.6 billion. 

Three members of Mars family, whose family’s company owns the Las Vegas-based Ethel M Chocolate family, tied for 19th place on the list, each with $11 million in net worth. 

Now, a brief moment of silence for all the Las Vegas  billionaires who have lived gold-gilded lives and lost but a smidgeon of their fortunes– and for the majority masses who can’t even count to a billion, or even write it.

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