NEWS

Once More, Bren Tops List of Orange County’s Wealthiest

2006 OC’S WEALTHIEST

Real Estate Surge Offsets Other Declining Fortunes; Richest Valued at $27.8B

By Michael Lyster
ORANGE COUNTY BUSINESS JOURNAL STAFF
Donald BrenIt’s been a battle of surging real estate empires versus sagging technology and other fortunes in the past year for Orange County’s wealthiest.

In the end, real estate prevailed, leading a $1.5 billion rise in the collective fortunes of the wealthiest people here.

The 27 people on our annual OC’s Wealthiest list, which appears on page 26, count a combined estimated worth of $27.8 billion, up 5% from a year earlier.

The group’s gain could have been greater—some real estate owners posted estimated gains of 10% or more. But those were tempered by declines among some of the top people on the list—namely the founders of Broadcom Corp. and the owner of Ameriquest Mortgage Co.

Bren Tops

The list’s perennial No. 1, Donald Bren, added an estimated $700 million in wealth in the past year, thanks largely to the resurgent office market.

The Irvine Company chairman this year has paid top dollar for office towers in OC and San Diego and is said to be near a deal in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the Irvine Co. broke ground on three OC office towers and is building a sprawling campus for Irvine chipmaker Broadcom.

After factoring in debt and construction costs, we peg Bren at $8.7 billion, up 8% from a year ago.

As with many on our list, our number is conservative. Bren easily could be worth more.

Even at Forbes’ $5.7 billion estimate for Bren, he’s the richest real estate owner on the magazine’s rich list—richer than the other Donald, Donald Trump.

Bren’s hold on the top spot got stronger this year.

Last year’s No. 2, Ernest Rady, is off this year’s list. Rady, who lives in La Jolla, made our list in prior years because much of his wealth came from Irvine-based Westcorp Inc., which was bought by Wachovia Corp. for $3.9 billion earlier this year.

Rady’s departure boosted Bren’s lead on the No. 2 entry to nearly $7 billion, up from $5.8 billion last year.

(Without Rady, this year’s group is about $200 million less than the group on last year’s list.)

Roland Arnall, ambassador to the Netherlands, isn’t as rich as a year ago with a downturn at Ameriquest Mortgage and its sister companies.

At No. 2 is Roland Arnall, the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands and owner of Orange-based ACC Capital Holdings Corp., parent of mortgage lender Ameriquest Mortgage Co.

Arnall saw the biggest estimated decline in wealth in the past year with a downturn at Ameriquest and its sister companies. We peg Arnall at $1.8 billion, down from $2.1 billion a year ago.

The county’s technology billionaires, Broadcom founders Henry Samueli and Henry Nicholas, checked in lower this year with a slide in the company’s shares.

We estimate both at about $1.6 billion, down from some $1.8 billion a year ago. About half of their wealth comes from Broadcom, which is off more than 50% since its spring high on Wall Street.

This year’s list includes eight billionaires, unchanged from last year, even with Rady’s departure.

Igor Olenicoff, founder and president of Newport Beach-based Olen Properties Corp., joined the billionaires club.

We’re estimating Olenicoff at $1 billion, up 25% from a year ago. The jump is based on higher prices for his apartments and office buildings, and what we feel is a better accounting of his wealth.

One of last year’s billionaires, Jim Jannard, founder of Foothill Ranch-based Oakley Inc., didn’t make the cut this time around.

Jannard, Oakley’s chairman and 64% owner, saw an estimated 10% drop in wealth to $900 million with a falloff in the company’s shares.

The list includes two newcomers.

Rodney Sacks and Hilton Schlosberg, two OC residents who run Corona-based Hansen Natural Corp., saw their wealth jump from an estimated $100 million apiece a year ago to more than $300 million each now by our count.

To come up with our list, we’ve spent weeks looking into individual holdings, company assets, public records and press clippings and talking with trusted sources.

Even so, our listing comes with caveats.

Like the Forbes 400 and similar listings, our numbers are conservative, ballpark figures. We’ve done our best to catalog assets, factor in debt, determine the cost of exercising stock options and account for other factors.

But only the people on our lists and their advisers know their true value.

Nor is our listing all-inclusive. We’ve done our best to track down who we believe are OC’s wealthiest people. But we are sure to have missed some. We look forward to comments on those we may have missed.

Our definition of “worth” includes stocks, real estate and other assets held by individuals after debt, stock and other factors. It includes shares or other assets held in family trusts or family-owned corporations controlled by an individual.