37. Rhode Island : Jonathan Nelson
In a world of high-profile media moguls, Jonathan Nelson has made a fortune buying and selling media and telecom properties without hardly anyone noticing. He founded private equity firm Providence Equity Partners in 1989 to invest in communications companies. Today, Providence manages $40 billion in assets and holds stakes in Hispanic TV provider Univision and education Web platform Blackboard. Past investments include YES Network, Warner Music Group and Hulu.
In January 2014 Nelson sold his firm’s 25% stake in AutoTrader to Cox Enterprises for $1.8 billion, triple what he originally paid for it. A Rhode Island native, Nelson studied economics at Brown and got his MBA at Harvard. He serves on Brown’s board and helped fund the school’s $45 million fitness center, which bears his name.