Roger Penske hasn’t made the cut for the annual Forbes 400 list since 2015, but the man who owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series may make a comeback.
On Tuesday, Forbes released its annual offering of what it says is the “definitive ranking of the wealthiest Americans in 2021” from Jeff Bezos (No. 1, $201 billion) to Arkansas investment banker Warren Stephens (tied for 389th, $2.9 billion). According to the company, individual net worths for the Forbes 400 were calculated using stock prices and exchange rates from Sept. 3. Also, the company pored over files from the Security and Exchange Commission, court records and more, and took into account stakes in both public and private companies, and a person’s various art, yacht, plane and jewelry collections, among other things.
Because Forbes doesn’t go past No. 400 on its fall list, we don’t know just how close Penske came to the cut line in early September, but we know he’s made up serious ground this year. Each spring, Forbes releases its annual list of the world’s billionaires, which listed the founder and chairman of Penske Corp. as worth $2.1 billion in April, good enough for to tie for 452nd in the United States and 1,517th in the world.
Penske’s pandemic recovery
That mark represented Penske’s highest recorded net worth during either of Forbes’ aforementioned annual lists since at least 2013, according to the site’s profile of the automotive businessman. What’s more, it represented a near-doubling of his net worth from April 2020 to April 2021, falling in line with the trend of America’s richest billionaires, who collectively saw their fortunes increase 40% from the summer of 2020 until last month.
Back in April 2020, Forbes listed Penske as worth $1.1 billion, a steep drop-off from what he was listed at via the site’s real-time tracker at the time he announced plans to purchase IMS and the IndyCar series from Hulman & Co. Nov. 4, 2019 ($1.6 billion). Since this spring, IndyCar experienced a noted resurgence with four first-time winners, the arrival of world-famous ex-F1 driver Romain Grosjean, the landing of contract extensions with series title sponsor NTT and exclusive broadcast partner NBC, and hosting the pandemic’s largest single-day gathering to date at May’s Indy 500.
More on Penske during the pandemic:
“I can tell you that with additional years on our TV contract and the fact that NBC would sign up for almost 80% of the races and (Indy 500) qualifying on network, that’s got to mean something,” Penske told IndyStar at the IndyCar season-finale last month during an exclusive interview. “We can see it from a sponsorship standpoint, not only for the teams, but we’re seeing it at IMS and certainly in sponsors for the races.
“Obviously, COVID-19 really clamped us down, but now it’s easing up. You don’t build a good business overnight. When it comes too fast, there might be something wrong with it.”
A Forbes 400 return in 2022?
Although his ownership of IndyCar and IMS represent a relatively small portion of his global automotive enterprise, IndyCar has seen its own boon, and at the same time Penske’s personal wealth has surged even higher.
Though it’s not presently known how close Penske was in September to this year’s Forbes 400 cutline of $2.9 billion, he’s now reached that mark, according to Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires List. The data as of Thursday lists the 84-year-old as worth $2.9 billion, the 1,161st-richest person in the world and No. 403 in the United States. That has Penske the 10th-richest person in the U.S. auto industry as of Thursday, and if he were listed in the “U.S. sports” category (assuming no other crossovers would be applicable), he’d be tied for 14th.
For reference, Colts owner Jim Irsay sits 12th ($3.5 billion) in the U.S. sports industry, and Pacers owner Herb Simon isn’t listed. Like so many American professional sports franchise owners, Simon’s largest source of his net worth is outside sports (real estate), so his $3.4 billion net worth isn’t ranked there.
More on Roger Penske:
When looking at nearly the last decade, Penske’s net worth has been largely steadily rising, according to Forbes’ data. In his second-to-last appearance on the Forbes 400, Penske was listed at $1.3 billion in September 2013. In the fall of 2015, he’d climbed to $2 billion, though that dropped back down to $1.4 billion by spring of the following year.
Two years later, in the spring of 2018, Penkse was listed by Forbes as worth $1.7 billion, and that seemed to have stayed largely level through the following year ($1.5 billion in March 2019 and $1.6 billion in November of that year) ahead of the pandemic.
Penske owns the large parent company Penske Corp., which according to the company website, “manages businesses with consolidated revenues of more than $32 billion, operating in over 3,200 locations and employing more than 60,000 people worldwide.” Among its subsidiaries are Penske Automotive, an automotive and commercial truck dealership company; Penske Truck Rental, a North American truck rental fleet; Penske Truck Leasing, a global transportation services provider; Penske Motor Group, a series of Toyota, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz dealerships; Team Penske; and Penske Entertainment.
Where does Penske rank in IndyCar paddock?
Despite all that, Penske would rank only fifth – at best – in terms of the richest people closely involved with the IndyCar series. Perhaps its richest? Ernest Garcia II, who was listed as worth $18.8 billion and No. 39 in this week’s Forbes 400. Garcia, a 64-year-old Arizona resident, ranks as the largest shareholder of Carvana, the primary sponsor that helped back Jimmie Johnson’s rookie IndyCar bid with Chip Ganassi Racing. His son, Ernest Garcia III, is Carvana’s cofounder and CEO and worth $9.3 billion, No. 83 on the list.
One of Penske’s longtime sponsors in both NASCAR and IndyCar trails the elder Garcia. John Menard Jr., the founder and owner of his namesake midwestern chain of home improvement stores, has had his brand featured as the primary sponsor of former Team Penske IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud’s No. 22 Chevy, as well as Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 Ford in the Cup series. Sitting No. 43 on this year’s Forbes 400 list, he’s said to be worth $16.6 billion.
Diane Hendricks co-founded and currently serves as the chair of one of IndyCar’s most well-known sponsors of the past two decades: ABC Supply. The company she started with her late husband, Ken, joined as a dedicated sponsor of A.J. Foyt Racing in 2005 and served as one of the team’s major backers through 2019.
ABC Supply also sponsored part of Tony Kanaan’s partial-season run in 2020. Most recently, ABC Supply was featured on the Foyt team’s No. 1 Chevy entry for J.R. Hildebrand in May’s Indy 500. Hendricks is listed as worth $11 billion, No. 64 in the country.
Email IndyStar motor sports reporter Nathan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @By_NathanBrown.