Although they're few and far between, Utah does boast its own small stable of the super-rich. Some are philanthropic; others contribute heavily to political campaigns. Almost all eschew personal publicity - refusing interviews and photos.Many of Utah's richest of the rich shun the trappings of wealth in favor of frugality.
Medical device pioneer James L. Sorenson tells the story of ending up in economy class on an airline flight with former Novell CEO Ray Noorda. They were both using senior citizen discounts.
"Wealth is a blessing, but it can more likely be a curse. You must be careful not to let wealth destroy the equilibrium of your life," Sorenson wrote in his self-published autobiography released this spring.
As Utah's wealthiest man, Sorenson continues to work and start new ventures in the years when most retire. He's worked in the same South Salt Lake office for 30 years surrounded by decor described by one magazine writer as "early insurance agent."
Noorda was probably the only CEO of a U.S. high-tech firm to drive a pickup truck to work, and the $150,000 assessed value of his home is on par with that of many working stiffs. Compare that to WordPerfect's co-founder Bruce Bastian's Orem mansion valued at $2.2 million.
Along with Sorenson and Noorda, American Stores chairman L.S. Skaggs, chemicals magnate Jon M. Huntsman and Word-Per-fect founders Alan C. Ashton and Bastian lead the list of Utah's richest.
Here are profiles of Utah's six known wealthiest people based on Forbes magazine's annual survey of the richest Americans and other publicly available sources:
James L. Sorenson, 73
Net worth: $695 million
Sorenson made his fortune in medical devices. The media-shy magnate rarely gives interviews but is the only multimillionaire who granted one to the Deseret News for this project (see interview on Page B2).Born in Rexburg, Idaho, in 1921, he spent his early years near Sacramento, Calif. Following an LDS mission and military service in World War II, he married the former Beverly Taylor and moved to Salt Lake City, where he went from drug salesman to building a series of successful businesses. He holds some 50 patents and is recognized as a pioneer in the medical device industry.
In his autobiography, "Finding the Better Way," Sorenson describes how he was shocked by unnecessary hospital deaths.
He created new medical devices that helped eliminate dangerous air bubbles in the blood. After selling Deseret Pharmaceuticals in 1960, he developed a new company, Sorenson Research, and sold it to Abbott Labs in 1980 for $100 million in stock.
His philosophy: "Pace yourself. Learn something every day. Remember that virtues carried to excess can become vices. Don't sell yourself short."
Most recently, Sorenson is investing money to help solve inner-city woes. He announced in April that he'd match dollar-for-dollar contributions up to $1 million to expand and rebuild the Glendale Youth Recreation Center. He said he was touched by the community spirit displayed by residents.
Raymond J. Noorda, 70
Net worth: $650 million
When Noorda joined Novell, the company had just 18 employees. Under his direction, the company grew from revenues of $3.8 million in 1983 to $1.123 billion for the fiscal year ending Oct. 30, 1993, according to a company press re-lease.
Noorda built a systems software success around his perspective that the capabilities of computer networks would one day rely more on services defined by software than physical connections between computer hardware.
He has consistently stressed responsible industry leadership and coined the term "coopetition" to describe his strategy of cooperating with competitors.
Originally from Ogden, Noorda served in the U.S. Navy in World War II and upon his discharge enrolled at the University of Utah.
Noorda reportedly owns about 10 percent of Novell's stock.
L.S. "Sam" Skaggs, 71
Net worth: $560 million
Skaggs is married and has four children. He followed his father and grandfather into the family business, which began with a small general store in American Falls, Idaho.
His grandfather was a Baptist minister who started Skaggs Cash Stores to raise money for his Idaho congregation in 1915. The family built the Skaggs enterprise into a sprawling western United States grocery chain that merged with a predecessor of Safeway Stores in 1926.
An uncle ran Safeway into the early 1940s, but Skaggs' father began building a drug retailing chain that is today's American Stores. Skaggs Jr. joined the family business at the close of World War II in 1946.
In 1939 Skaggs' father acquired Payless Drug Stores in Utah. Leonard took over in 1950 at age 26. In 1969 he formed a partnership with Joseph Albertson to develop the idea of a combined drug-grocery business. In 1977, they had an amicable split. Each took 29 stores for $2.5 billion. Skaggs' company was renamed American Stores in 1979. Later the company acquired Jewel companies and Lucky Stores. Today there are 1,672 stores in 27 states.
Skaggs was Utah's fourth largest federal campaign contributor in 1993, giving some $11,000 to political parties and interest groups.
His yearly salary, reported in 1993, was $767,933. His shares of the company are worth $560 million.
Jon M. Huntsman, 57
Net worth: $550 million
Huntsman directs the nation's largest privately held chemical company. He oversees operations at 64 sites in 16 countries, employing more than 6,400 people. Texaco Chemical Co. is his most recent major acquisition.
Huntsman Chemical is listed as the 158th largest private company by Forbes magazine in the United States with sales of $908 million in 1992.
In a 1991 Deseret News interview Huntsman said, "People sometimes think that financial security is a one-side blessing, but there are some significant downsides to your children and family and your own life - and where you can go and how free you really are. I guess that's been a concern I never realized. More and more I see that and feel trapped a little bit by it."
A native of Blackfoot, Idaho, Huntsman graduated from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and later received his MBA. He and his wife, Karen, are the parents of nine children.
He is a former U.S. Navy gunnery officer and served under President Richard M. Nixon as special assistant to the president and White House staff secretary.
He serves on numerous corporate boards, including Bankers Trust of New York and Campbell Soup. He is the former vice chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Utah Symphony Orchestra. He is a member of the board of trustees for the University of Pennsylvania and an overseer for the Wharton School.
Along with his aborted run for Utah's governorship in 1988, he is well-known for his philanthropic activities. Most notable is the establishment of the Cancer Research Institute at the University of Utah. He has a personal interest after battling the disease twice - prostate cancer and cancer of the mouth. He also has established a Center for Environmental Research at Utah State University and a Center for Global Competition and Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania.
A biography from Huntsman Chemical describes him as "dedicated to the relief of human suffering." His efforts to rebuild the country of Armenia after a devastating 1988 earthquake earned him the country's highest honor.
Huntsman's home and surrounding property, near the mouth of Emigration Canyon, has an assessed value of $963,000.
In a recent New York Times interview, Huntsman said he wants to cash in his holdings and use a large part of the profits to create a charitable foundation in the Ford and Carnegie tradition. He said the money would be used to aid cancer research, children's medicine and the plight of the homeless.
Alan C. Ashton, 51,
Bruce W. Bastian, 45
Net worth for each: $450 million
Ashton, co-founder and nine-year president of WordPerfect Corp., along with Bruce Bastian, led the company from its humble beginnings to one of the top four software companies in the world.
Ashton and Bastian developed WordPerfect Corp.'s first version of Word-Per-fect and later revolutionized the word-processing market with WordPerfect for the IBM personal computer. Since the Word-Per-fect Corp. and Novell merger, Ashton and Bastian have served as Novell board members.
WordPerfect word-processing software evolved from an idea that Ashton conceived as a graduate student in 1969. At the time, he was considering two projects, one involving music and the other word processing. His professors guided him into the music project, and it would take nine more years to revive his other idea. While he was a professor at Brigham Young University, his idea evolved into the world's best-selling word-processing software. Public records show the assessed valuation of his home is $1.5 million.
Upon receiving a master's degree in computer science from Brigham Young University in 1978, Bastian turned down numerous job offers from companies such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Digital Equipment Corp. and Texas Instrument - choosing the entrepreneurial path instead. He and Ashton formed WordPerfect Corp. in 1979. The company now employs more than 4,500 people worldwide.
Public records show that Bastian owns three Mercedeses. The assessed value of his Orem home is $2.2 million.