Forbes published this week its list of America's 400 wealthiest Americans, and Missoula's own Dennis Washington moved up this year's list to No. 58. Last year, he was ranked 61. According to the magazine, Washington's worth jumped from $4.2 billion in 2009 to $4.5 billion in 2010.
Here's what they wrote about the 76-year-old recession-proof billionaire:
Montana magnate Dennis Washington gets the majority of his wealth from Montana Rail Link railroad, Montana Resources copper and molybdenum mine — and cash. Also owns largest tug and barge fleet in British Columbia and a stake in marine shipping firm Seaspan. As a child Washington bounced around among relatives after his parents divorced. By age 14, he was making his own money doing odd jobs like boxing groceries and shining shoes. Started his own construction firm at age 29. Built reputation on rehabilitation of Butte copper mine, purchased in 1986, and turnaround of bankrupt Morrison Knudsen in 1996. Public company Washington Group International declared bankruptcy in 2001 after tangle with Raytheon (Washington says the company overestimated its value and underestimated its debts). His Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation funds 50 scholarships annually to the University of Montana. It also donated 64,000 acre ranch in Oregon to Young Life, a Christian youth ministry that runs a summer camp for teenagers; building a water slide park on the ranch for disadvantaged youth. Retired from Washington Companies, he spends most of his days refurbishing Attessa IV, a 333-ft. yacht with swimming pool. Scheduled to leave the dry dock in early October for trials.
Speaking of Washington's latest yacht, the Attessa III was mentioned in a recent Oakland Tribune story. That boat is 225 feet and, according to the paper, comes "features an art deco design and is equipped with a movie theater, gym, massage room and two outdoor Jacuzzis."
In other Washington transportation news, we also know that he invited the board of directors from the Horatio Algers Association to Missoula this week, and, after spending time at a nearby ranch, the group took Washington's private train to Cour d'Alene for a meeting. Despite calls to the foundation and Washington's people, we were unable to confirm who exactly attended, but a recent list of directors includes the likes of Lou Dobbs, Clarence Thomas and T. Boone Pickens.
UPDATE: Back to the Forbes list, we should point out that St. Ignatius resident Linda Pritzker also ranked within the Top 400, at No. 308. Pritzker's a Tibetan Buddhist who inherited her fortune from her grandfather, A.N. Pritzker, who helped build the Hyatt hotel chain. Forbes puts Linda Pritzker's worth at $1.3 billion.