America’s downtowns might be reeling from the aftermath of higher interest rates and an increased work-from-home trend that has emptied office spaces and shut down retail outlets. But for the nation’s wealthiest property moguls, 2023 has been yet another lucrative year.
The Booming Riches in the Real Estate Sector
While cities across the country have seen property values plummet due to vacant office buildings and closed retail stores, America’s richest landlords have gotten richer. According to Forbes’ 2023 list, there are 25 billionaires whose massive wealth comes primarily from real estate. Their combined net worth is a staggering $139 billion, up $5 billion from 2022’s list.
The rise in apartment rents, nearly 3 percent over the past year, is a testament to the sustained demand in the residential real estate segment. Geoffrey Palmer, a new addition to this year’s list, has seen significant gains from his residential properties in Los Angeles. Another newcomer, Annette Lerner, inherited her wealth from the vast apartment holdings in Washington, D.C., amassed by her late husband, Ted Lerner.
Moreover, the pandemic has accelerated the e-commerce surge, making industrial real estate – particularly warehouses and logistics facilities – extremely valuable. Edward Roski, Jr., an L.A.-based developer, has seen his wealth jump by $1 billion from last year, thanks to this trend.
Not All Smooth Sailing
However, it hasn’t been a bed of roses for every real estate billionaire. High-profile tycoon Donald Trump has dropped off the Forbes 400 list for the second time in three years. A significant chunk of his assets, much like some other billionaires, is wrapped up in office buildings located in hard-hit areas like New York and San Francisco. Stephen Ross, despite being the second-richest real estate billionaire in the U.S., has witnessed a drop of approximately $1.5 billion in his fortune.
On the brighter side, Donald Bren of Orange County, California, is the reigning champ of real estate billionaires with a net worth of $18 billion. Ty Warner, known for creating the 90s sensation – the Beanie Babies plush toys, has seen his fortune grow due to rising values in luxury hotels and golf courses.
Here’s a Snapshot of the Top 5 Real Estate Billionaires:
- Donald Bren: With a whopping $18 billion net worth, Bren’s expansive empire through his Irvine Company includes millions of square feet of office spaces, apartments, shopping malls, and golf courses.
- Stephen Ross: Worth $10.1 billion, Ross has made his fortune through the Related Companies. Apart from owning assets worth more than $60 billion across the U.S., the company has been marking its territory in South Florida, becoming the largest commercial real estate owner there.
- Leonard Stern: Valued at $8.1 billion, Stern’s Hartz Mountain company holds more than 260 properties spanning various states, primarily in industrial real estate and apartments.
- Igor Olenicoff: With a net worth of $7.7 billion, this Russian immigrant has accumulated millions of square feet of office spaces and thousands of residential units across multiple states.
- Jeff Greene: Worth $7.5 billion, Greene has a vast portfolio of apartments, condo buildings, hotels, and office properties, especially in California, Florida, and New York.
California real estate billionaires that made the top 25 list include:
John A. Sobrato & family: Net worth: $5.9 billion | Residence: Atherton, California
Rick Caruso: Net worth: $5.3 billion | Residence: Los Angeles, California
Donald Sterling: Net worth: $4 billion | Residence: Beverly Hills, California
Jay Paul: Net worth: $3.7 billion | Residence: San Francisco, California
Nicolas Berggruen: Net worth: $3.2 billion | Residence: Beverly Hills, California
Richard Peery: Net worth: $3.2 billion | Residence: Palo Alto, California
George Argyros & family: Net worth: $3.1 billion | Residence: Newport Beach, California
Geoffrey Palmer: Net worth: $3.1 billion | Residence: Beverly Hills, California