Mitt Romney would be the wealthiest president ever, Forbes calculates

Forbes Magazine analyzed Mitt Romney's wealth, including investments, real estate, and cash. It found $230 million in assets, while the total for the Obamas is nearly $6 million.

Mary Altaffer/AP
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets supporters after speaking at a campaign stop Wednesday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The two leading candidates for the White House – incumbent Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney – are both millionaires.

But among the 1 percenters in America today, there are millionaires and then there are millionaires.

Mr. and Mrs. Romney fall into the latter category, making them close to quarter-billionaires.

Forbes Magazine has just analyzed the Romneys’ 184 assets, breaking them into nine categories totaling $230 million. The figures come from disclosure forms filed with the US Office of Government Ethics in 2007 and 2011, plus discussions with high-level Romney officials familiar with changes made since the last report.

Edwin Durgy of the “Forbes wealth team” is quick to point out that Romney isn’t the richest person to run for president. That would be Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. Also, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson probably were wealthier than Romney, when inflation and the worth of their Virginia plantations at the time are taken into account.

“But there’s no denying that in terms of total dollars a President Romney would be the wealthiest White House occupant ever,” Mr. Durgy writes, adding that Romney “would be even wealthier had he not set aside a trust, now worth $100 million, for his 5 boys.”

According to Forbes, here is how the Romneys’ wealth breaks down:

Debt securities total $91 million, including $36 million worth of Federal Home Loan Banks consolidated obligations and an estimated $10 million of structured notes from Goldman Sachs and BNP Paribas. It also includes a personal loan of $400,000 to the Romneys’ horse trainer.

Romney’s holdings in dozens of Bain & Company and Bain Capital funds, dating back to the years he spent working for the companies, total $52 million.

His other alternative investments total $29 million, a large chunk of which is managed by billionaire hedge-fund manager Paul Singer, who also donated $1 million to the Romney "super PAC" Restore Our Future. The Romneys hold another $23 million in mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

The worth of their real estate is estimated to total $18 million, including a beach house in La Jolla, Calif.; a town house in Belmont, Mass.; and a summer compound on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.

Under the Romneys’ “transportation,” Forbes lists two Cadillacs, a 2002 Chevy pickup truck, and a 2005 Ford Mustang, plus riding and show horses.

The couple also has $16 million in cash, including bank deposits, money-market accounts, and international currencies (Australian, Canadian, and British).

The government disclosure forms include vague asset ranges and definitions, Forbes points out. So how did they come to pencil out the Romneys' total wealth at $230 million? Here is Forbes’s description of the methodology used to analyze the assets:

“Assets that jumped to a higher bracket from one disclosure to the next were valued at the 25th percentile of the current range, while those that fell were valued at the 75th percentile of the current range. Assets that stayed within their bracket were appreciated at the market rate from their initial median value through May 14; benchmark indexes were used as proxies for nonmarketable assets. Real estate was valued based on current property values; for cars we used the values as assessed by the local assessor’s office.”

How does all this compare with Mr. and Mrs. Obama's wealth?

“Based on our research, the Obamas are actually worth less than they were last May, when Barack Obama previously filed,” Forbes reports. The total for them is nearly $6 million, most of it “in plain vanilla US treasurys.”

Why the drop in wealth? For one thing, book royalties from Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” and “Dreams From My Father” are decreasing at a faster rate than previously estimated.

Still, notes Forbes’s Erin Carlyle, that’s “not too bad for a pair of Harvard Law School grads who skipped the corporate track to become a community activist and a hospital communications director.”

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