47. North Dakota : Gary Tharaldson
Gary Tharaldson worked as a physical education teacher and insurance salesman before he purchased his first hotel in 1982. The North Dakota native built his fortune through acquiring and building hotels across the country, eventually accumulating a portfolio of about 350 hotels.
In 2006, Tharaldson sold 130 hotels to Goldman Sachs’ real estate arm for about $1.2 billion. He reinvested most of the profits from this sale into land investments and commercial and residential developments across the country. In 2008, Tharaldson also launched an ethanol production facility, which produces 153 million gallons per year.