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Jim Justice makes Forbes billionaire list again

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice got a half-billion dollars richer over the past year, according to Forbes Magazine's latest tally of global billionaires.

Justice was tied with 40 other people worldwide for 882nd place in the listing of the world's richest people. Everyone in the 882nd spot had a net worth valued at $1.7 billion.

The ranking is a significant improvement for Justice, whose net worth was listed at $1.2 billion (1,015th place) in the magazine's 2012 rankings.

The state's lone billionaire, Justice said he was surprised to hear he grew $500 million richer over the last year.

"I must surely be doing some good stuff somewhere," he joked during a phone interview Monday."

According to Forbes, Justice is the 292nd richest American, up from 375th last year.

But those are just empty numbers to the Raleigh County native.

"I don't have a clue how they measure what you do or what you have," he said. "It's flattering, but at the same time . . . it doesn't really mean anything to me.

"It's a measurement."

Forbes reported the number and net worth of the world's billionaires has set a new record high. The 1,426 billionaires across the globe have a net worth of about $5.4 trillion, the magazine reported.

The rankings measure more than just income and cash assets. They also include stakes in public and private companies, and purchases of real estate, yachts and art.

However, Justice said he's not interested in using his money to buy material things.

"I don't have one ounce of ambition to pile up that pile of gold, hang out at the beach, buy five yachts and travel around the world," Justice said.

"I want to try and do as much as I can for my state, and I mean that really sincerely," he said. "I love West Virginia and I just hate it like crazy when we come up 50th in a lot of things - I want to do as much as I can for the people of our state."

Justice's family built its fortune through coal and farming. Justice has large-scale farming operations in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and the Carolinas.

He sold his family's West Virginia coal operations to Russia's Mechel OAO for $436 million in cash in 2009. Justice also received about $240 million in Mechel stock, which he has since sold.

That same year, he purchased the bankrupt Greenbrier resort from CSX for $20 million, with the aim of returning the world-class resort to profitability.

He has since invested more than $200 million in the hotel, building a brand new casino and establishing the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament and concert series.

Combined with his investment in the Greenbrier's medical facility, Justice's improvements at the White Sulphur Springs resort have topped $400 million.

"To get The Greenbrier into a profitable stage has been very, very difficult," he said.

Justice had to lay off about 100 of the 1,800 staff members at the resort last January due to a decline in winter business.

He said business did get somewhat better over the last year.

"It's surely not what I would call extraordinarily," he said. "I mean this economy is tough on any kind of business."

Justice said he believes The Greenbrier will return to profitability soon.

"I think we've turned the corner at The Greenbrier," Justice said. "We've done a lot of work and invested a lot of money. We haven't completely turned it, but we can see the light that we've got better days ahead."  

Meanwhile, Justice's immediate focus is on coaching tonight's AAA regional co-final boy's basketball game between his Greenbrier East Spartans and the South Charleston Black Eagles.

Despite his growing fortune, Justice still coaches the high school's boys and girls basketball teams.

"I want to do the right stuff - I just do," Justice said. "I want to try and help as many people as I can.

"I believe the Good Lord tells me every day, 'This is what you're supposed to do,' and I don't take that lightly," he said.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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