Kentucky’s richest man is laughing all the way to the stable. (But Jack Conway isn’t)

Owner B. Wayne Hughes at Churchill Downs, 4.28.2005.
Hughes

He’s Wayne Hughes Sr. of Lexington, the 82-year-old horse breeder and retired co-founder of Public Storage, just named the state’s wealthiest resident — again — by Forbes. The magazine put his wealth at $2.6 billion, up $300 million from a year ago, after shares in the company soared 30% — far ahead of the basically flat S&P 500 index.

Hughes; his daughter, Tamara Hughes Gustavson, and son Wayne Hughes Jr., own a combined 18.1 million shares in the California-based storage chain started in 1972 — a stake worth $4.6 billion at current market prices. That’s a whopping $1.1 billion more than a year ago on the strength of the stock’s 30% jump.

Conway and Rove_edited-1
Conway and Rove

If Hughes Sr.’s name sounds familiar, it should: He’s been one of the biggest donors to American Crossroads, the conservative political action committee whose targets last year included Jack Conway — the Democratic nominee for Kentucky governor who lost big to Matt Bevin.

American Crossroads was launched six years ago by Republican strategist Karl Rove. Hughes gave the PAC nearly $6.8 million in 2010-14, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan group in Washington that tracks campaign finance. The breakdown:

Wayne Hughes donations

In the 2016 election cycle, however, Hughes’ donations have been much more modest. He’s given to just two GOP campaigns: former White House hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida $2,700), and U.S. Rep. Todd Young, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate for Indiana ($5,400).  Hughes has given nothing to Crossroads.

Dividing family money

Forbes credits Hughes with $2.6 billion of his family’s overall $4.6 billion in the magazine’s new Richest Person in Every State List. But Public Storage itself says only that he and his children own it collectively, according to this year’s annual proxy report to stockholders.

Still, no matter how you slice it, Hughes is mega-rich — even if a whole lot of people are still richer. He ranks only No. 293 on the magazine’s list of 400 wealthiest Americans, and just 810 on the world’s list of 1,810 billionaires. (No. 1 on both lists is  Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, with $76 billion.)

In fact, Hughes only ties for 293rd richest American; 13 others are just as wealthy, Forbes says. In retirement, he’s Public Storage’s chairman emeritus, and owns Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, with a stable of stallions that have sired championship horses.

Lots of millionaires statewide

Although Forbes says Hughes is Kentucky’s uber-wealthiest, there are plenty of others who are merely rich: The state has an estimated 74,000 households with $1 million or more in stocks and other investible assets, according to the Phoenix Global Wealth Monitor. That’s 4.2% of the state’s 1.7 million households. If Hughes’ fortune was spread across Kentucky, everyone would get $591; more Census facts about the state.

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