The rich are getting richer.
Last May, Forbes announced its annual list Forbes 400, which ranks the richest Americans by their net worths. The 400 richest Americans saw their combined wealth increase 40% over the last year, to $4.5 trillion. Nearly all are wealthier than the previous year.
Today, I will uncover the richest person in Wisconsin.
According to Forbes Magazine, eight billionaires on the Forbes 400 consider Wisconsin home. None wealthier than John Menard, Jr. His net worth exceeds $16.6 billion, making him the 34 richest individuals in the country.
Who is John Menard, Jr.?
John Menard Jr. is the founder of Menard Inc., a Wisconsin-based company that owns the Menard home improvement chain. Today, Menards is recognized as the retail home center leader with stores in 14 states, and Bloomberg reported that the company had revenue of $12.8 billion in 2020.
John Menard Jr. was born in 1940 in Eau Claire, the eldest of eight children. His father was a professor at the University of Wisconsin, and his mother a teacher at St. James the Greater, a Catholic grade school.
He worked a part-time job that inspired him to build one of the best businesses in the country.
In 1958, while John was still in high school, his father employed a company to build a pole barn, and John got a summer job working with the crew. During his employment, he realized that the farm industry was evolving from relying heavily on humans to do the work to more efficient machines.
This realization led John Menard Jr. to notice that this shift created a demand for low-cost agricultural buildings to house stock and machinery. So, during college, he determined to build a business to help farmers. His idea was simple, a pole-building business.
By the summer of 1959, he assembled a small team and started to build many structures, and the Menard brand started to be recognized in the Eau Claire, Wisconsin, area.
However, because of the high demand for Menard pole buildings, John had to buy more and more equipment and hire more people. When he graduated from college, his name was a powerful brand, so he devoted all of his time to his business.
Instead of buying building materials, he manufactured them.
He bought a small land and built a small office, and the rest is an amazing success story that will be told for a long time.
Being a savvy business owner, he realized that most of his customers were buying lumber and building materials, so he began to sell these materials on a cash-and-carry basis. Then, in 1969, he built manufacturing facilities to produce steel siding, roofing supplies, and other construction materials.
In 1994, he sold the Menard Building Division to expand his retail home improvement centers.
John Menard Jr. had some trouble with the law.
In 1997, John Menard Jr. was accused of improperly disposing of hazardous waste, and the government fined his company $1.7 million for 21 violations. However, troubles continued to follow Menard, and in 2013, the IRS ordered him to pay $6 million in back taxes after he allegedly mischaracterized $20 million as salary.
In April 2020, Menard was among various business executives named to the economic advisory group founded by President Donald Trump.
Menard is a huge NASCAR fan.
A racing fanatic, Menard purchased his first racing car in 1979. His son, Paul, races for a NASCAR team that the company co-sponsors. In 2019, they won the 2019 Indy 500, and it was their first win in nearly 40 years of involvement in racing.
He also loves horses, and according to Bloomberg, "He's also a thoroughbred horse owner, with $13 million invested in 31 thoroughbreds." Unfortunately, there is not much information about his philanthropy affords, and Forbes magazine predicts he donated less than 1% of his wealth away.
If you had his wealth, what causes would you support?