Normally when we write about billionaires on Celebrity Net Worth, it's because of their insanely lavish lifestyles and wild spending habits. For example, there was the time Oracle CEO Larry Ellison used a sliver of his $41 billion net worth to purchase the Hawaiian island of Lanai for $600 million. Or the Chinese billionaire who wasted $200 million of his own money to finance an embarrassingly awful Avatar knock-off called "Empires of the Deep" that ultimately was never even released. Or my personal favorite, the story of when Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov was arrested after flying a private jet full of high end Russian prostitutes to the French Alps for a New Years Eve party. For better or worse, the average multi-billionaire lives life in a way that most of us can barely imagine. And that's exactly what makes the story of New Hampshire resident Rick Cohen so shocking and impressive. Despite having never appeared on any Forbes list, and living in a modest $1.5 million house, Rick is secretly one of the top 100 richest people in the world with a net worth of $11.2 billion…
Richard B. Cohen, aka Rick, is the owner of a company called C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc. The company was founded by Rick's grandfather Israel Cohen (C) and a man named Abraham Sigel (S) in 1918 out of a small brick warehouse in Worcester, Massachusetts. Starting with just three employees, the company was soon delivering more than 1200 different food products to stores all over town. By 1930, the company had grown into one of the largest grocery distributors in the entire state. During World War II, the company expanded to deliver supplies to military bases up and down the eastern seaboard. When the war ended, America underwent a consumer revolution that saw mom and pop grocery stores replaced by the massive supermarkets we know today. Between 1945 and 1970 the company expanded at a furious pace, eventually moving into a 200,000 square foot distribution center. In 1970, the company earned $17 million in revenue ($100 million today). By the mid 1980s annual sales grew to $540 million, by 1991 sales topped $1 billion, by 2001 sales topped $8 billion. Amazingly, last year the privately owned company earned a whopping $21.7 billion in revenue delivering 95,000 food producs to nearly 4000 grocery stores from 54 different distribution centers around the country. Today C&S Wholesale Grocers is the largest grocery wholesaler in the world and the 10th largest privately held company in the United States. And if all that wasn't impressive enough, the privately held company is owned by one person: Rick Cohen.
Rick started working for the family company in 1974 after graduating from Wharton business school at The University of Pennsylvania. He was named Chairman/CEO in 1989 when his father Lester decided to retire. One of his first decisions as CEO was to eliminate dozens of middle managers from the company and replace them with self-managed teams led by the workers themselves. Rick is neurotically obsessed with efficiency, a necessity in a business with notoriously low margins. But that doesn't mean Rick is cheap, in fact quite the opposite. In 2002, Rick approached his floor workers with a proposition. He offered to triple their $6 minimum wage to $18/hour if they were able to increase productivity to 25 pallets per hour. The incentive worked and productivity increased 40% almost overnight.
Cohen is known for his privacy and modesty. He hasn't given a public interview in over 10 years. He even refuses to have his trucks decorated with the company name and instead opts to have blank white trucks roaming the country's highways. Rick and his wife are very active philanthropists, but never seek headlines for their giving. It seems as though Cohen's goal is to own the largest company you've never heard of and be the richest person you never hear about.
Intentionally or not, Rick's modest personal life also endears him to his thousands of employees. Despite being worth $11.2 billion, enough to make him the 90th richest person in the world, Rick lives in a relatively humble $1.5 million house. Sure it's by far the most expensive house in town, but it's a far cry from the lavish $100 million mansions most billionaires call home. Perhaps the only real sign that Rick is a billionaire is the fact that he also happens to own a beach house in Maine and a small ranch in Jackson, Wyoming. But in their main hometown of Keene, New Hampshire, Rick and his wife are frequently seen buying their own groceries and attending local plays and movies with their children and grandchildren. Perhaps this is the way we should all live if we are lucky enough to someday have $11 billion… Then again, I still might not be able to resist the mansions, private islands and luxury jets full of sexy Russian prostitutes!
After posting this story to our Facebook page, one of our fans accurately pointed out that Rick Cohen is a dead ringer for Egon from Ghostbusters: