NC’s wealthiest see their fortunes rise and fall in Forbes rankings. Who tops the list?

Forbes named the 400 wealthiest Americans this week, and the three North Carolina residents to make the cut saw their net worths fluctuate over the past six months, according to the magazine.

SAS Institute CEO and cofounder James Goodnight, 80, remained the state’s richest person with a net worth of $8.5 billion. This is $900 million higher than the net worth Forbes calculated for Goodnight when it published its World’s Billionaire rankings in April.

Goodnight is now the 102nd richest American, according to Forbes.

He founded the Cary-based analytics software firm SAS in 1976 when pursuing his Ph.D. at North Carolina State University. He started the company with an N.C. State graduate student named John Sall, who supplanted Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney as the second-wealthiest North Carolinian in the latest rankings.

Sall, 75, is worth $4.2 billion and serves as an executive vice president at the company. Both he and Goodnight reside in Cary.

SAS is one of the world’s largest private software providers, with annual revenue around $3 billion. Goodnight has committed to taking his company public in the coming years, though the company postponed its initial goal of reaching the stock market by next year.

Epic’s Tim Sweeney sees worth fall

The third North Carolina resident to make the Forbes 400 list is Sweeney, 52, who cofounded Epic Games in 1991.

He also lives in Cary, where he has led Epic to become one of the most influential developers in the world. Its game titles include Fortnite, Gears of War and Infinity Blade. Fortnite is one of the most popular video games of all time. Released in 2017, it still attracts around 70 million active players worldwide each month.

Epic’s 3D visualization tool Unreal Engine is used by other game developers and major film studios. Unreal helped create movies like “The Batman” and “War of the Planet of the Apes” as well as TV shows like “The Mandalorian” and “Westworld.”

Forbes named Sweeney the state’s richest person last year, when his net worth shot up from $4.1 billion in 2021 to a reported $7.4 billion. This week’s rankings returned Sweeney’s worth to $4.1 billion.

Epic has hit hurdles in the past 12 months. In December, the company agreed to pay a record $520 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission over complaints that the company violated children’s privacy law and induced unintended purchases through deceptive designs in Fortnite.

Tim Sweeney, the chief executive of Epic Games, at the company’s headquarters in Cary, N.C., July 17, 2019.
Tim Sweeney, the chief executive of Epic Games, at the company’s headquarters in Cary, N.C., July 17, 2019.

And last week, Epic cut 16% of its staff, more than 800 workers, as Sweeney cited the large amount of money the company has spent on its initiatives in the metaverse.

This was the 42nd edition of Forbes’ wealthiest Americans list. Its methodology includes looking through public financial documents, news articles and court records to assess assets, which can include real estate, company holdings, art, planes and yachts.

Among the 400 billionaires on the list was Charlotte Panthers owner David Tepper ($20.6 billion) and former Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan ($3 billion) — though both are Florida residents.

Jordan, the iconic NBA Hall of Famer, sold his majority stake in the Hornets this summer at a valuation of $3 billion. He purchased the franchise in 2010 for $275 million.

Open Source

Do you enjoy Triangle tech news? Subscribe to Open Source, The News & Observer's weekly technology newsletter and look for it in your inbox every Friday morning. Sign up here.