Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris’ net worth fell by nearly $2 billion in the past seven months, according to Forbes research.
The magazine’s 38th annual Forbes 400 listing of the wealthiest Americans ranked Morris at No. 207, with an estimated net worth of $3.8 billion as of Oct. 2. In March, he ranked No. 303 on Forbes’ annual list of the world’s billionaires with a net worth estimate of $5.7 billion. The Forbes 400 listing marked a drop of 33% from March.
The slide begs the question why.
Christina Vega, director of corporate communications with Forbes, said via email the magazine found more detailed information on the financial performance of Bass Pro that resulted in the $3.8 billion total, but she didn’t elaborate. Additional attempts to reach Vega, along with other Forbes communications staff members, were unsuccessful.
Jack Wlezien, Bass Pro director of communications, said the privately held company doesn’t comment on financial matters. Wlezien said he contacted Morris regarding an interview request for the story but hadn’t heard a response as of press time.
However, he did share a handwritten note Morris sent the magazine a few years back when he made the Forbes 400.
“Bass Pro Shops could only have happened in America – the home of the free enterprise system that rewards things like hard work, value, innovation and genuine friendly service,” Morris wrote to Forbes. “Being included on your list is not my favorite thing, but then again things could be worse. I feel very blessed to have spent my whole life around the great sport of fishing. I feel especially blessed to have had the steadfast loyal support of my family and extended family of very talented and passionate Bass Pro Shops, Tracker and Big Cedar team members by my side. Together, we’ve shared a remarkable journey – and it’s not over yet.”
According to its website, Forbes list research includes interviews with candidates, when possible, accounting for all assets, debts and charitable giving. Each billionaire’s total lifetime giving is estimated to compile a philanthropy score on a 1-5 scale. In addition, a self-made score that acknowledges an individual’s journey to wealth is calculated on a scale of 1-10.
Morris, 71, first made the Forbes 400 list in 2013, ranking No. 110 with a net worth of $4 billion, according to Springfield Business Journal archives. The $5.7 billion peak was first estimated for last year’s Forbes 400, released in October 2018.
In Morris’ current Forbes 400 profile, key expenses include Bass Pro’s $5 billion purchase of rival Cabela’s in 2017, an estimated $300 million to reopen Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium that same year and $421.4 million in lifetime giving. Forbes notes Morris’ giving is valued at 10% of his net worth, netting him a philanthropy score 4; his self-made score is a 9.
Financial adviser Ron Penney of Penney, Murray & Associates/Ameriprise Financial Services said he views the lists of wealthiest Americans in Forbes and regularly notices people rise and fall in the rankings.
“They can go up and down based on restructuring ownership, which is a key component of estate planning,” Penney said, noting Morris isn’t a client and he didn’t have knowledge of his situation.
Penney and his firm have nearly $2.1 billion in assets under management this year, according to SBJ list research. His average client’s net worth is around $2 million, according to Barron’s. The firm’s client list exceeds 5,000, he said.
He often sees people with high net worth utilize estate planning, where their assets appear in trusts, he said. Penney added some choose to subdivide property to avoid the federal estate tax, also known as the death tax. The tax applies when a person’s wealth exceeds $11.4 million at the time of death, and the maximum rate is 40%.
“I’d say it’s still very low if you think about it,” he said of the death tax, adding about 95% of the population will never have to pay it.
According to Forbes, Morris’ real-time net worth as of Oct. 23 was an estimated $4 billion. He ranked as the second-wealthiest Missourian on the Forbes 400.
Other Missouri billionaires on the list are:
• No. 100 Pauline MacMillan Keinath of Cargill Inc., $6.3 billion;
• No. 225 Rodger Riney of Scottrade Inc., $3.6 billion;
• No. 239 David Steward of World Wide Technology, $3.5 billion; and
• No. 379 Jim Kavanaugh of World Wide Technology, $2.2 billion.
The annual list of America’s richest is worth a combined $2.96 trillion, up 2.2% from 2018, according to Forbes. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), kept the top spot for the second year in a row, at $114 billion, down from $160 billion a year ago. His ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, made the list for the first time at No. 15, with $36.1 billion. Ranking second and third, respectively, are Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) principal founder Bill Gates, at $106 billion; and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK) CEO Warren Buffett, at $80.8 billion.
Web Editor Geoff Pickle contributed.
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