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13 newcomers named richest self-made women in US

Forbes logo Forbes 03-06-2016 Michela Tindera, Forbes Staff

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Forbes’ second annual definitive tally of America’s wealthiest, most successful self-made women includes 60 trailblazers – 10 more than last year – who have crashed ceilings through invention and innovation. These women, who are worth a combined $53 billion, have created some of the nation’s best known brands, such as Gap, Spanx, Proactiv and Vera Bradley. A number of them have also helped build some of the most successful companies in tech, including Facebook, eBay and Google, while still others got rich entertaining millions through their music, books or TV shows.

These women have achieved unparalleled success through invention and innovation to create their own fortunes.  ABC Supply’s Diane Hendricks (No. 1) tops the list with a net worth of $4.9 billion, followed by Oprah Winfrey (No. 2), worth $3.1 billion.  The Gap’s Doris Fisher and Founder & CEO of Epic Systems, Judy Faulkner, are tied for No. 3, both worth $2.4 billion. Elizabeth Holmes, Founder & CEO, Theranos, who was No. 1 on the list in 2015, misses the cut this year due to recent investigations involving Theranos and information indicating that the company’s revenues are less than originally projected.

With sold out arenas, billion-dollar companies and best-selling books under their belts, 13 newcomers joined the ranks of America’s Richest Self-Made Women in 2016. Big names (Celine, Barbra, Taylor) and big brands (Nasty Gal, Vera Bradley, Douglas Elliman) define the group who cracked this year’s $250 million cutoff, and together have a combined net worth of $5.65 billion. 

Click ahead to meet to meet the newcomers to the list, and then visit Forbes for the complete report.

The Top 10 Richest Self-Made Women

RankNameCompanyNet worth
1Diane HendricksABC Supply$4.9 billion
2Oprah WinfreyOWN cable network$3.1 billion
3 (tie)Judy FaulknerEpic Systems$2.4 billion
3 (tie)Doris FisherGap$2.4 billion
5Johnelle HuntJ.B. Hunt Transport Services$2.3 billion
6 (tie)Marian IlitchLittle Caesars$2.1 billion
6 (tie)Meg WhitmanHewlett Packard Enterprise$2.1 billion
8Lynda ResnickThe Wonderful Company$2.0 billion
9 (tie)Jin Sook ChangForever  21$1.9 billion
9 (tie)Judy LoveLove’s Travel Stops & Country Stores$1.9 billion

Gail Miller

Gail Miller© Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images Gail Miller Net worth: $1.6 billion

Rank: 11

How she did it: The only newcomer who is also a billionaire, most of Miller’s wealth stems from basketball team the Utah Jazz. She purchased it with her late husband in 1986 for $22 million. It’s now worth $875 million.

Carolyn Rafaelian

Carolyn Rafaelian© Nomi Ellenson/Getty Images Carolyn Rafaelian Net worth: $700 million

Rank: 22

How she did it: The Alex and Ani founder launched her Rhode Island-based bangle-maker in 2004. In 12 years, she’s grown revenues to an estimated $500 million and operates 65 stores around the country.

Celine Dion

Celine Dion© Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Celine Dion Net worth: $380 million

Rank: 37

How she did it: Dion has sold over 220 million albums in her career, but the bulk of her net worth ($260 million) comes from the Las Vegas residency she began in 2003.

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand© Evan Agostini/Invision/AP Barbra Streisand Net worth: $370 million

Rank: 38

How she did it: Happy days are here again! With a career full of hits and accolades spanning sixty years, Streisand has had a No. 1 album every single decade she’s been in showbiz and is the best-selling female musician of all time. 

Jessica Alba

Jessica Alba© Gilbert Carrasquillo/WireImage/Getty Images Jessica Alba Net worth: $340 million

Rank: 42

How she did it: Alba launched The Honest Company in 2012. Just three years later, she was featured on the cover of Forbes’ Self-Made Women’s issue with a $200 million estimated net worth from her stake in the nontoxic-household-goods-startup. The actress-turned-entrepreneur did not make the $250 million net worth cutoff for the list in 2015, but secured her spot on this year’s list when her 20% stake in the company shot up last August after raising $100 million at a $1.7 billion valuation.

Nancy Zimmerman

Dollar Bills© Hynci/iStockphoto/Getty Images Dollar Bills (No photo of Zimmerman available.)

Net worth: $320 million

Rank: 46

How she did it: Launching her career buying currency options on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Zimmerman later made her way to Goldman Sachs to run their interest rate options group. She left Goldman to co-found Boston-based Bracebridge Capital in 1994. It’s grown to $10 billion in assets under managements and is now the largest in the world run by a woman. 

Danielle Steel

Danielle Steel.© Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images Danielle Steel. Net worth: $310 million

Rank: 48

How she did it: Steel joined fellow romance novelist Nora Roberts on the list this year proving sex, and lust, really does sell. She’s written 129 books and sold more than 650 million copies in her career.

Patricia Miller and Barbara Bradley Baekgaard

Patricia Miller and Barbara Bradley Baekgaard.© Michael Conroy/AP Photos Patricia Miller and Barbara Bradley Baekgaard. Net worth: $300 million (Miller); $270 million (Baekgaard)

Rank: 49 (Miller); 54 (Baekgaard)

How they did it: Queens of quilted prints, Miller and Baekgaard founded Vera Bradley in 1982, sewing bags in Baekgaard’s basement and selling their first ones in gift shops. There are now 139 company stores and with products sold in another 2,700 retailers around the country. Vera Bradley IPO’ed six years ago and has a $590 million market cap. 

Sophia Amoruso

Sophia Amoruso.© Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images Sophia Amoruso. Net worth: $280 million

Rank: 53

How she did it: The original #GirlBoss, at 22 Amoruso started her online retailer Nasty Gal. Ten years later her company is raking in $300 million in sales, Forbes estimates. She also released her memoir “GirlBoss” in 2014 and it became a bestseller. Amoruso has since expanded the #GirlBoss brand to radio and TV.

Dorothy Herman

Dorothy Herman© John Lamparski/WireImage/Getty Images Dorothy Herman Net worth: $270 million

Rank: 54

How she did it: Overcoming a tragic adolescence, Herman got her start as a real estate broker for Merrill Lynch on Long Island. By 2003, she’d bought New York City brokerage Douglas Elliman. It’s now the country’s fourth-largest brokerage firm and the largest in New York City.

Toni Ko

Toni Ko© Araya Diaz/Getty Images Toni Ko Net worth: $260 million

Rank: 57

How she did it: In 1999 Ko started NYX Cosmetics aiming to sell department-store quality makeup at drugstore prices. The company did $4 million in sales in the first year alone. She sold to L’Oreal in 2014 for $500 million and has since moved on to launch a new sunglasses line in early 2016.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift© Anthony Harvey/Getty Images Taylor Swift Net worth: $250 million

Rank: 60

How she did it: Coming in at the last spot on this year’s list, Swift’s earnings shot up with her transition from country music starlet to worldwide pop star, raking in the most from last year’s 1989 tour that earned $250 million.

More on Forbes: Meet the rest of America’s Richest Self-Made Women

Methodology: Members of the 2016 list needed a minimum of $250 million in net worth to make the cut. To compile net worths, Forbes valued private companies by speaking with an array of outside experts and conservatively comparing the companies with public competitors. In cases in which women started businesses with, and still share with, their husbands, Forbes assigned them half of that combined wealth.

Forbes calculated the stakes in public companies using stock prices from May 13. For entertainers, they based estimates on net lifetime earnings. Real estate, art and other assets were also factored in where applicable. To be eligible for this list, women had to have substantially made their own fortunes and be U.S. citizens or longtime residents. Forbes attempted to vet these numbers with all list entrants.


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