Business

Is Melaleuca’s founder really 42 percent richer than he was in June? Forbes says so

Limping from knee surgery, Frank VanderSloot rushed to his car to retrieve his cowboy hat for this photo. Having the common touch is key to his success, says Debra Lish, who sells Melaleuca and raises horse in Pocatello: "He's just like us."
Limping from knee surgery, Frank VanderSloot rushed to his car to retrieve his cowboy hat for this photo. Having the common touch is key to his success, says Debra Lish, who sells Melaleuca and raises horse in Pocatello: "He's just like us." Katherine Jones / kjones@idahostatesman.com

This summer, Frank VanderSloot was reluctantly crowned Idaho’s wealthiest man by Forbes. Now he’s made another of the business magazine’s lists: the wealthiest 400 Americans.

VanderSloot, the founder of Melaleuca, was one of 13 people who tied for No. 302, each with fortunes Forbes estimated at $2.7 billion.

That’s an $800 million jump in net worth from Forbes’ last estimate of $1.9 billion, published only four months ago. Has VanderSloot managed to amass millions more in such a short time?

Maybe. VanderSloot told the Idaho Statesman that Forbes’ new list includes updated information on his company, and he “didn’t provide much information” to the magazine for its June list of the wealthiest person in every state.

“The data they were using to value Melaleuca is a year fresher, and the stock market is up about 15 percent over the last 12 months,” VanderSloot said Wednesday. “Everybody’s asset base has gone up, especially if you own stock in any company.”

VanderSloot declined to say how accurate Forbes’ estimates were, though.

“I know they did their research. I don’t want to respond to (the accuracy of the reports),” he said.

He said most of his wealth comes from his shares of stock in Melaleuca, which is privately traded. Based on the $2.7 billion figure, VanderSloot said he believes Forbes is valuing his company around $5.5 billion.

“I would argue that (Forbes) placed a lower value on Melaleuca than if it was publicly traded,” he said.

That’s not unusual for VanderSloot, who started the online health products retailer in 1985. In June, he told the Statesman that he had “mixed feelings” about the Forbes lists, adding that “the fact that we track things like that and somehow think it’s newsworthy doesn’t say a lot of good things about our society and what we value.”

He reiterated that sentiment Wednesday. VanderSloot said the focus should be on the employees who’ve built Melaleuca into a profitable, successful business.

“Melaleuca paid out $6.6 billion to employees and marketing executives, so that value is being distributed out to the people who built this,” he said.

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