For most Americans, the Dow 17,000 milestone is just a number. But for some corporate founders, the market rally this year has meant a fortune.
The Dow's total market capitalization has grown by $156.4 billion this year to $4.91 trillion, adding to pension funds, endowments and mutual fund holders.
But the biggest beneficiaries are the top 10 percent of Americans who own some 80 percent of the stocks. And within that group, the largest windfalls have gone to corporate founders or big shareholders of certain stocks—especially in tech and energy.
Steve Ballmer, for instance, has made nearly $1.5 billion in paper wealth from his Microsoft stock this year, even though he's no longer CEO. That gain will pay about 75 percent of the cost of his planned $2 billion purchase of the LA Clippers basketball team.
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Harold Hamm, the fracking pioneer and head of Continental Resources, has gained $5.68 billion in paper wealth this year and is now worth nearly $20 billion. Hamm isn't well known outside energy circles but that may change quickly as his fortune soars.