Apr 12, 2023 - News

Georgia's lesser-known billionaires

Illustration of a golden peach.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Forbes' annual list of the wealthiest people on the planet includes the usual suspects from Georgia: Arthur Blank, Bernie Marcus, Sara Blakely and the Cathy and Cox families. But there are plenty of lesser-known affluent Atlantans in the mix.

Why it matters: Some of the lower-profile names showcase the metro region's diversity and the Atlanta economy's stronger shift toward software and tech.

Details: Here are some of the less-famous billionaires walking among us who made the list.

  • David Zalik: The Israeli-born executive built GreenSky, a fintech company that was purchased by Goldman Sachs last year for $2.2 billion in stock.
  • Tope Awotona: The Nigerian-born founder and CEO of scheduling software company Calendly has a $1.2 billion net worth, putting him at no. 2,259 on the Forbes list.
  • Ben Chestnut and Dan Kurzius: The Mailchimp founders sold the email marketing company they bootstrapped in 2021 to Intuit for $12 billion, and are tied at #699 with their respective $4 billion net worths.
  • John Brown: The 88-year-old retired executive (with the most anonymous name of the bunch) built his $5.7 billion fortune as the former CEO and chairman of Stryker Corp., a medical devices and software company.

Of note: Chestnut and his wife Teresa have started a foundation focused on youth and arts programs and recently awarded $1 million to build out metro Atlanta's mountain-biking trails.

  • Zalik and his wife Helen fund programs to support and build metro Atlanta's Jewish communities.

State of play: The total net wealth of the world's billionaires jumped $3.8 trillion, or 42%, to $12.7 trillion during the pandemic, according to a 2022 Oxfam report, which used Forbes data. Higher prices for food and energy drove up their fortunes and could exacerbate inequality, the report says.

  • "I've never seen such a dramatic growth in poverty and growth in wealth at the same moment in history," Max Lawson, Oxfam's head of inequality policy, told CNN. "It's going to hurt a lot of people."

Be smart: Stock holdings fluctuate, property gets purchased under LLCs, and who knows what lies behind trusts and other financial tools.

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