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The second wealthiest real estate titan in California is Archie Aldis (Red) Emmerson – The largest private forestland holder in North America (1.5 million acres). "Red" learned the timber business from father, who started out with makeshift sawmills in family's backyard. Redding is his base of operations; $1.5 billion his net worth.

For the last 20 years, while other logging companies retrenched or relocated, Emmerson, and his company - Sierra Pacific Industries - quietly grew into the second-largest private landowner in the United States. Assets include 1.52 million acres in Northern California, timberland stretching more than 350 miles from Mount Shasta to Yosemite National Park.

Needless to say, Sierra Pacific is a darling of environmental groups.


John Sobrato of Sobrato Development Companies calls Atherton, home, but he made his fortune in Silicon Valley – one of the priciest real estate markets in the State. Sobrato boasts a portfolio of $1.5 billion. For more than 40 years, SDC has developed real estate in Silicon Valley - properties – they specialize in facilities for high tech and R&D companies. Another self-made man, he began in 1953 with one of the first "tiltup" buildings in Santa Clara County.

Sobrato owns and manages the buildings it constructs and maintains single tenant occupancy - more than 120 buildings in Santa Clara County and Alameda County - more than 10 million square feet of office and manufacturing space. The also own land throughout San Jose, Fremont, Newark and Santa Clara and have developed in excess of 7,000 rental units.


One-time owner of the Seattle Mariners, George Argyros is another Newport Beach billionaire with a net worth of $1.2 billion. Argyros, the grandson of Greek immigrants, began by running a Palm Springs grocery. He graduated to buying and selling corner lots at busy intersections for gas stations. Turned to apartments, 1968. Today, as part of Arnel & Affiliates, Argyros manages apartments and commercial property in southern California.

The first President Bush appointed Argyros to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. board in 1990. George W. Bush tapped Argyros to lead GOP fundraising efforts in California in 2000 and appointed him Ambassador to Spain in 2001.


Self-made billionaire Carl Berg was a loan processor before investing in Silicon Valley commercial real estate with John Sobrato in the 1960s. Struck out on own, forming Mission West Properties, a real estate investment trust (REIT) in Silicon Valley. Berg owns a controlling stake in the REIT, which focuses on single-tenant research and development and office properties in Silicon Valley. Mission West now owns and manages more than 100 properties, with major include such as Microsoft, Apple Computer, and JDS Uniphase.

Berg also divides his time among assorted tech investments. Currently, the Atherton-based businessman boasts a portfolio of $1.2 billion.


Finally, a Los Angelino….Ed Roski is the founder of Majestic Realty, the largest commercial builder in Los Angeles, boasting an office, retail and industrial portfolio totaling more than 55 million square feet. Also active in Las Vegas with a 400-acre business park and 3 million square feet of casinos. The USC grad with a net worth of $1.1 billion built the Staples Center with Philip Anschutz and is a minority owner of the Lakers and the Kings.

Headquartered in City of Industry, Majestic Realty also has offices in Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, and Las Vegas.

“Ed is an icon to all of us involved in the commercial real estate industry,” observed Rex Hime, head of the California Business Properties Association.


A.G. Spanos Companies are known for building, managing, and selling multi-family housing units; constructing master-planned communities, and developing land. The Stockton-based firm has built more than 100,000 apartments in 18 states since 1960. Recently developed top-class office space in San Joaquin County. Major projects include Spanos Park, a $1 billion master-planned community in Stockton. Alex Spanos, owner of the NFL's San Diego Chargers, operates the company with his sons Dean (president and CEO) and Michael Spanos (EVP). Spanos, whose net worth is $1.1 billion recently pledged $200 million to San Diego for a new stadium for their football team.


John Arrillaga + Richard Peery are two of 2 of Silicon Valley's biggest commercial landlords. In the 1960s, they converted farmland into pricey office space. Peery/Arrillaga developers normally, only provides facilities to companies that can pay cash, but if they sense a winner – say Sun Microsystems or Quantum, they give lenient terms--and then collects rents as they grow. Peery and Arrillaga are lifelong business partners who avoid debt, and the media. Each has net worth of $1 billion. Arrillaga a big donor to alma mater Stanford University.

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We have introduced you to a list of the 46 real estate billionaires that were honored on Forbes 2005 list of the “The World’s Richest People.” According to the billionaire’s list, 7 percent of the 691 billionaires listed real estate as their industry. FYI – 2/3 are self-made billionaires, 1/3 inherited the basis of their fortune.

Allow us to introduce you to some of the most interesting cosmopolitan real estate tycoons….

The richest of the real estate billionaires - Walter, Thomas and Raymond Kwok - ranking 31 on the billionaire’s list - call Hong Kong home. They inherited the foundation of their fortune - Sun Hung Kai Properties, and have amassed $10.9 billion in real estate holdings. They have diversified and flourished with their SmarTone cellular and KMB bus operations. Last year they were #22 with $11.4 billion.

The richest man in the United Kingdom is Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, the sixth Duke of Westminster, #80 on the billionaire’s list. His real estate holdings - which he inherited and expanded to its current value of $5.6 billion - span the former British Empire and include properties from Hong Kong and Washington, D.C. In his native country, Cavendish Grosvenor holds properties London's posh Mayfair and Belgravia neighborhoods, as well as an additional 150,000 acres in the English countryside.

Japan has a new real estate titan. Eitaro Itoyama clocks in at 103, with a net worth of $4.9 billion. The heir to chain of golf courses, h is infamous in Japan.
The rumor mill claims he is a link between the nation's gangsters and politicians. His portfolio includes a $200 million in Japan Airlines, as well Mitsubishi Heavy Industry.

Last year, Japan’s richest real estate mogul was Fukuzo Iwasaki. In 2004 this Japanese mogul had $5.7 billion from inheritance. The entertainment warload on the island of Kyushu is feeling Japan’s econmic pinch. He has closed several resorts and theme parks, and his net worth has fallen to $4.4 billion.

As you might expect, the richest American real estate titan lives in California. Newport Beach resident Donald Bren ranks 122 on the billionaire’s list and is a self-made man. Dubbed by Forbes as “America's Richest Landlord” - with a net worth of $4.4 billion (up from $4 billion in 2004), Bren is the man behind Irvine Ranch. He has compounded his fortune by purchasing the remaining preferred shares of profitable Irvine Apartment Communities. He makes large donations to further education. You will read more about him in upcoming weeks.

Singapore’s reigning mogul is Kwek Leng Beng & family, thanks to Hong Leong Group Singapore, a conglomerate of 300+ companies, including 12 on the stock exchange. His City Developments is a leading real estate developer in Singapore; Mr. Beng is #138 on the list and boasts a $4 billion portfolio. He has grown his money in his native Singapore with some high-profile hotel and residential projects.

Australia’s richest real estate mogul, Frank Lowy, made his money in shopping malls and a comes in at 151 with a net worth of $3.6 billion (up from $2.4 billion in 2004). He oversees a $24 billion portfolio of 117 shopping centers on three continents. In 2003 he sold his 99-year lease on the World Trade Center's subterranean shopping plaza to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey for $140 million.

Nina Wang, the richest woman on the list, rises from 231 last year to 188 this year, but who knows where she will be in 2006. Hong Kong’s Wang,inherited her fortune from husband Teddy Wang and has grown it up to a net worth of $3.1 billion. She is mired in litigation over the control of Chinachem Group, the company she founded with her husband, and as run since he was kidnapped in 1990. (Never heard from again, he was declared dead in 1999.) Her father-in-law fights that a 1968 will makes him sole beneficiary. Nina debates a later will makes her beneficiary. HK courts have twice ruled in the father's favor. The final appeal will be decided this summer.

The youngest real estate billionaire is 43-year-old Stefan Schörghuber. The Munich Germany resident (#203) inherited much of his $2.9 billion net worth and now owns the Schvrghuber Unternehmensgruppe conglomerate. Holdings include one of Germany’s largest listed real estate corporations; the Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr breweries; the Arabella-Sheraton hotel chain; Bavaria International regional airline; cable cars, golf resorts and garages.

Austria’s real estate baroness is Melinda Esterhazy, #272, on the billionaire’s list with an estimated net worth of $2.3 billion. The 84-year-old is the sole heir of Prince Paul V Esterhazy de Galantha, head of the Magyar family, whose roots date back to the mid-13th century. Princess Esterhazy, a former prima ballerina of the Budapest Opera, is one of Austria's largest landowners. In 1956 during the Hungarian revolution Prince Paul (who did time in a Communist prison in Hungary after World War II) and Melinda escaped to Switzerland where he successfully rebuilt the family fortune until his death in 1989.

Spain’s Manuel Jové is a self-made real estate billionaire, #413 with a net worth of $1.6 billion. A carpenter by trade, Jové opened grew his business into the real estate company called FADESA Immobiliaria, which he took public in April 2004. The $675 million (sales) has seen revenues grow almost sixfold from 1998-2003, thanks to construction boom in Spain and Portugal.

One of the few residential real estate billionaires (#507) is Australian Harry Triguboff, with a net worth of $1.3 billion. The chief executive of $590 million Meriton Apartments grew his empire over the past four decades by building B-grade housing in second-rate neighborhoods. Born in China to Russian parents who fled during the Bolshevik Revolution, Triguboff learned real estate development as a child watching his father do construction in Tientsin, China.

This is Forbes’ 19th annual list of the world’s billionaires. For details go to To see the entire Forbes list, go to To see if you have what it takes to be a billionaire, take Forbes’ quiz.

For more on Southern California commercial properties there is a great information blog at