Business

SAS co-founder billionaires rebuild some of their net worth

Posted March 11, 2010 6:44 a.m. EST

— Jim Goodnight and John Sall, co-founders of Cary-based SAS, improved their respective net worth in 2009 despite the global recession.

The majority owners of the world’s largest privately held software company are now worth $6.9 billion and $3.4 billion, according to the annual Forbes magazine billionaires list.

A year ago, Goodnight’s worth totaled $6.1 billion. Sall had holdings of $3.1 billion.

Despite their recovery, each fell on the overall Forbes ranking list, Goodnight to 105th from 75th and Sall to 277th from 196th.

The rally in 2009 came after the men both lost heavily as the recession took a firm grip on the world in 2008 and stretched into last year. On the 2008 list, Goodnight was estimated to have holdings of $8.7 billion and Sall was worth $4.4 billion, according to Forbes data.

The year was not as kind to another billionaire with significant connections to North Carolina. David Murdock, who is building the North Carolina Research Institute in Kannapolis, is now worth $2.5 billion. That’s down $800 million from a year ago. In two years, Murdock’s fortune has diminished $2.2 billion.

Goodnight and Sall co-founded SAS in 1976, and the company continued its unbroken streak of growing its revenues annually with 2.2 percent growth to $2.31 billion.

“Chief executive Goodnight kept his promise of no layoffs in 2009; company says it reinvested 23% of 2009 revenue in research and development,” Forbes noted in its profile of Goodnight.

Murdock, meanwhile, took privately held Dole Food – his primary holding – public again last year and raised some $446 million.

The magazine noted Murdock’s rise from very humble beginnings.

“Dyslexic high school dropout drafted into Army 1943, settled in Detroit after WWII,” Forbes noted. “Made small profit flipping diner he bought with $1,800 loan. Took charge of struggling Dole, Hawaiian real estate company Castle & Cooke in 1985. Today Dole is world's largest producer of fruits and vegetables. Self-professed health nut's life-prolonging diet and exercise regimen: smoothies, no saturated fats and 50 push-ups a day.”

Castle & Cooke is developing the Research Campus. Murdock has been very focused on personal health since his third wife died of cancer in 1985.