Wisconsin Billionaires' Net Worth Rose 36% During Pandemic
John Menard, center, pumps his fist after his son Paul Menard, third from left, won a NASCAR Xfinity Series auto race at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis on Aug. 29, 2015. Menard’s has seen his net worth increase from $11.5 billion to $18.96 billion in the last three months. (Photo © Andy Manis)

As unemployment soared and economic security reached record lows, eight Wisconsin billionaires benefited greatly.

In the three months since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Wisconsin, John Menard Jr. has earned $7.46 billion, Epic Systems chief executive officer Judy Faulkner has made $1.3 billion, and ABC Supply owner Diane Hendricks made $2.7 billion. 

While more than 20 million Americans remain unemployed and the economy is officially in a recession, Wisconsin’s billionaires are doing fine as the stock market has essentially recovered.

The net worth of Wisconsin’s eight billionaires grew a collective 36.1 percent, or $14.2 billion, between March 18 and June 17, according to a newly released joint report from Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Americans for Tax Fairness, and Health Care For America Now that analyzed Forbes’ World’s Billionaires List.

“It’s immoral that billionaires are getting richer and richer while average Americans are treading water if they are lucky, or drowning, from the economic crash caused by the pandemic,” Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, said in a statement.

Not a single one of the state’s billionaires took any financial hit, but some saw dramatic increases in their net worth, according to the report.

The findings come a month after another study found that billionaires in America made a collective $565 billion during the pandemic, while Wisconsin’s unemployment rate sits at 12 percent.

Menard’s gains from $11.5 billion to $18.96 billion constituted a 64.9 percent increase in net worth. Faulkner’s wealth grew 52 percent, from $2.5 billion to $3.8 billion, and Hendricks’ grew 39.5 percent from $6.9 billion to $9.6 billion.

Menard, Faulkner, and Hendricks enjoyed the most extreme growth, but others still made millions, if not billions, according to the report.

The net worth of Herbert Kohler, Jr., chairman of the Kohler Company, grew from $5.9 billion to $7.6 billion, a 28.9 percent increase. James Cargill, II, an heir of Minnesota-based mega-conglomerate Cargill, saw his net worth increase 21.8 percent, from $2.7 billion to $3.28 billion.

Herbert Fisk Johnson, Helen Johnson-Leipold, and Samuel Curtis Johnson — of cleaning product manufacturer SC Johnson — were each worth $3.3 billion on March 18, according to the report. 

Herbert Fisk Johnson made $132 million, or 4 percent, while Johnson-Leipold and Samuel Curtis Johnson made $152 million, or 4.6 percent.

“Now is the time for Wisconsinites to unite across our differences and demand our government leaders make decisions that help every-day people like us — not the richest 1% and a handful of corporations who are profiting from this pandemic,” Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said in a statement.