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Photonics Falls off Forbes Richest Americans List

Photonics Spectra
Nov 2001
Stephanie A. Weiss

The biggest fortunes in photonics tumbled down the ladder of success this year, leaving just one fiber optics founder clinging to the bottom rung on the Forbes magazine "400 Richest in America" list.

Forbes calculates its list based on stock prices in August, which in 2000 was just before the fiber optic communications boom went bust. Thus, the 2000 version of the list included several self-made billionaires who found fortune in photonics:
  • No. 28 ($8.2 billion), David Huber, founder of Ciena and Corvis.
  • Nos. 32 ($7.6 billion) and 33 ($7 billion), Gururaj Deshpande and Daniel E. Smith, founders of Sycamore Networks.
  • No. 104 ($2.5 billion), Pradeep Sindhu, the founder of Juniper Networks.
  • No. 129 ($2 billion), Frank Levinson, the founder of Finisar Corp.
  • Nos. 143 ($1.9 billion) and 150 ($1.8 billion), J.J. and Theresa Pan, founders of E-Tek.
  • No. 218 ($1.3 billion), Don Scifres, founder of the former SDL Inc. and now co-chairman and chief strategy officer at JDS Uniphase Corp.
Market fluctuations

Of course, the market changed after the 2000 list came out, leaving some of the photonics billionaires counting millions, instead.

Only Levinson remains on the 2001 list, tied for last place (No. 391), his net worth now valued at only $600 million. (As if to prove that the economy has made even the rich suffer, last year's bottom rung was $725 million.)

It may be good news for photonics that the founders of some large fiber optics technology buyers remain on the list:
  • Philip Anschutz, founder of Qwest Communications, was No. 6 last year with a net worth of $18 billion. In the ensuing year, Wall Street took a chunk out of his wallet, but the 2001 list keeps him firmly in the top 20, No. 16 with a net worth of $9.6 billion.
  • Kenny Troutt, founder of Excel Communications, was tied with Scifres in 2000, but he managed to climb to No. 158 in 2001, increasing his net worth by $100 million.

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