How A Team Of Bloomberg Reporters Hunts Down Hidden Billionaires Around The World

Lynsi torresScreengrab from LitbyMoonProductions on YouTubeLynsi Torres, heir to the In-N-Out Burger fortune

On newsstands this week, the December issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine provides a comprehensive list of the richest people on the planet.
A lot of the names on the list — Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, the Koch brothers — are pretty familiar. Still, how does the magazine account for the many billionaires who aren’t living with their wealth out in the open?

Bloomberg editor Matthew Miller and his team of reporters are responsible for hunting down hidden billionaires, which is sometimes just as exciting as it sounds.

“Parts of it are extremely James Bond-esque, whether that’s calling up a reporter when we know there’s a meeting of a bunch of wealthy people in Paris and have that person take a train from London to Paris to make sure they’re camped out at that bar,” Miller said to Business Insider. “That’s something that we actually did a couple of months ago.”

Other times, it’s not so exciting.

“Parts involve lots of Excel spreadsheets and lists of private companies and number crunching. The more realistic way to hunt billionaires is to look at the biggest fast food chains in the U.S.,” Miller said. “That’s how we found Lynsi Torres.”

Torres is the 30-year-old owner of In-N-Out Burger, the West Coast’s beloved fast food chain. With a company that’s worth about $US1.1 billion, she’s one of the youngest billionaires in the world, yet she chooses to lead a private life and has never appeared on an international wealth ranking.

This can be pretty common. A desire for security and a life free from the pestering of luxury retail companies and philanthropic organisations are motivations for keeping extreme wealth under wraps. Miller’s team has uncovered more than 90 billionaires in the past year, including Koch Industries director Elaine Marshall and German grocery tycoon Dieter Schwarz, who both appeared on this year’s list of the 100 richest people in the world.

Another hidden billionaire, Turkish immigrant and Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya (who was worth $US1.1 billion in 2012 but did not make this year’s billionaires list), was discovered when some of the Bloomberg reporters were eating breakfast at their desks.

“Three of four were having Chobani yogurt, and we questioned who owned it,” Miller said. “He’s been touted as a great story of American entrepreneurism ever since.”

After years of researching billionaires, Miller has learned that they all tend to have some things in common.

“They all tend to be extremely smart and usually have an idea that is able to penetrate a large consumer base. The second thing is ambition — these people like to win and don’t take no for an answer,” Miller said. “The third thing is luck. The only difference between Mark Zuckerberg and the guy who founded Myspace is timing and luck.”

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