Diane Hendricks among nine from Wisconsin making Forbes' list of richest Americans

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By Rick Romell/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Monday, September 16, 2013

Diane Hendricks, owner of Beloit-based building materials distributor ABC Supply, climbed 39 spots to No. 103 on the Forbes magazine's annual ranking of the richest Americans.

The magazine estimated her wealth at $4.4 billion, up from $2.9 billion a year ago.

The business magazine reported it's also been a great year for Herb Kohler. The magazine estimates the net worth of the Kohler Co. chief executive and his family increased by $3.8 billion in just 12 months.

As a result, the Kohlers rose 105 notches on the Forbes 400, the publication's annual ranking of the richest Americans.

Just how did the Kohlers' wealth swell by nearly 150 percent—from $2.6 billion to $6.4 billion—in a single year? Credit the rebound in the housing sector, Forbes says.

Growth in housing, of course, should benefit Kohler Co., a major manufacturer of bathroom fixtures. But there may be more than a little guesswork in Forbes' calculation. With Kohler being a private firm not obligated to share its financials, the magazine bases its valuation of Kohler partly on what happens at its publicly traded competitors.

The expanding housing market also may have helped Hendricks and John Menard climb the Forbes 400 list.

Menard, founder of the Eau Claire-based home improvement store chain that bears his name, is the state's richest person—worth $7.5 billion by Forbes' count. That's up from $6 billion a year ago, but Menard dropped one spot in the magazine's rankings, to No. 57.

Other Wisconsinites on the list and their estimated wealth: H. Fisk Johnson, Imogene Powers Johnson, S. Curtis Johnson and Helen Johnson-Leipold, all of Racine's Johnson family, $3 billion each; James Cargill II, a resident of Birchwood, in northwestern Wisconsin, and heir to a stake in Cargill Inc., $2.6 billion; and Judy Faulkner, Madison, founder of Epic Systems, $2.3 billion.

The 400 wealthiest Americans are worth a record $2.02 trillion, up $300 billion from a year ago, according to Forbes. The average net worth of those on the list is $5 billion, and the minimum net worth needed to make the list was $1.3 billion.

Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

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