Get rich in the hotel business

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The hotel business is a pretty good way to become a billionaire. Not as good as high-tech, energy or some other industries, but not bad, especially if your name is Pritzker, Carlson, Tisch or Marriott. Those four families placed 17 names on the recently published list of The 400 Richest Americans in the current issue of Forbes magazine. In all, 30 people with direct ties to the hotel industry made the list.

The Pritzker family had 11 names on the list, totaling $22 billion in net worth. Tom and Penny Pritzker led the way with $2.3 billion and $2.1 billion, respectively. Barbara Carlson Gage, Marilyn Carlson Nelson and their families, heirs to the Curt Carlson and Carlson Companies fortune, have a combined worth of $4 billion. The Tisch family of Loews Hotels have two people on the list—Joan ($3.4 billion) and Wilma ($1.9 billion)—but no sign of prominent hotelier Jon Tisch. Iâ€â„¢m sure heâ€â„¢s not hurting. The Marriott brothers, Richard and Bill, have a combined worth of $3.5 billion.

Other prominent current or one-time hoteliers on the list: Ty Warner ($4.5 billion), Robert Holding ($4.2 billion), Wayne Huizenga ($2.1 billion), Dean White ($1.4 billion), Thomas Flatley ($1.3 billion), Barron Hilton ($1 billion) and Robert Johnson ($1 billion). Some of these guys—Warner, Huizenga and Johnson, in particular—made their fortunes in other businesses before turning to the hotel business.

Casinos are another particularly good way to make a billion dollars, or at least hang on to the billions you made in other industries. Sheldon Adelson, who's number-three on the list (behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffett), made tons of money in the trade show business before cashing out and getting into casino hotels, most notably with The Venetian in Las Vegas. The magazine says the 73-year-old Adelson is worth $20.5 billion, not bad but still less than half of Buffett's $46-billion fortune.

Other casino industry magnates on the list: Kirk Kerkorian ($9 billion), Steve Wynn ($2.6 billion), Donald Trump ($2.9 billion), Phil Ruffin ($1.4 billion) and Bill Boyd ($1.2 billion).

Does any of this information have deep meaning? Probably not, but it's good to dream.

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