John Truett made millions as an oil and gas CEO, but since moving to Teton County, Wyoming — an area inhabited by an increasing number of wealthy transplants like himself — his biggest passion has been becoming a “normal person.”
When he visits the downtown bars, “I don’t tell people that I live in a gated community. They accept me as a local,” he tells author Justin Farrell in his new book, “Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West” (Princeton University Press), out now.
Money, he insisted, hasn’t changed him.
“Yeah, I’ve got the airplanes, a motorcycle, and I love driving my Beemer through the mountains . . . [but] I go down and drink beer with the guys that run the lifts, and I’m as much as a ‘lifty’ as they are.”
Truett is just one of the hundreds of CEOs, investors and moguls — some of the “most powerful and well-known figures in business and politics” — who have made Teton County their home. Some live here permanently, commuting to major cities for work, and some only visit during the summer or winter months. Everyone interviewed by Farrell for the book did so on the condition of anonymity (all names are pseudonyms).
Teton, once known as a “little quaint cow town” by locals, has transformed over the last decade into a haven for the ultra-wealthy, with full-time residents like former Vice President Dick Cheney, Wal-Mart heiress Christy Walton and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
It’s not the only Wyoming town with high-profile new neighbors — rapper Kanye West made headlines recently after buying a $14 million, 9,000-acre ranch in Cody, Wyo., just under 300 miles away from Teton — but Teton County, which encompasses almost half of Yellowstone National Park and the Jackson Hole ski area, has seen the biggest change in its financial identity.
“In 2015, 80 percent of all income in Teton, around $3.4 billion, was from financial investments, not from ordinary jobs,” Farrell told The Post.
That’s a 6,438 percent increase since 1970, when it was $52 million. But these are not investments occurring in the state, they’re business transactions wealthy residents are making remotely. “So the rush of wealth wasn’t this broad-based economic growth or rising wages or salaries,” he says. “Salaries in Teton County really haven’t risen in 50 years.”