with an empire of owned and operated office
buildings, shopping centers, apartment complexes, and luxury hotels. That
strategy works particularly well for “America's richest landlord,”
73-year-old Newport Beach Resident Donald Bren, the wealthiest man in
American real estate. This self-made millionaire, with a net worth of
$4.3 billion, made much of his money as chairman of The Irvine Company,
a privately held real estate investment company known for creating balanced,
sustainable, quality communities like the 93,000-acre Irvine Ranch in
Orange County. Finished plots sell for more than $1 million an acre. The
ranch also has 400 office buildings, 35 shopping centers, 80 apartment
complexes and 2 luxury hotels. Bren is 6th wealthiest real estate billionaire
and the 122nd richest man in the world. He is also one of real estate’s
2. Do more than invest. Making big money in real estate
goes beyond buying property and waiting for it to appreciate in value.
It’s all about improvements. John Sobrato of Sobrato Development
Companies calls Atherton, home, but he made his fortune in Silicon Valley
– for more than 40 years, Sobrato’s SDC has developed real
estate in Silicon Valley - specializing in facilities for high tech and
R&D companies. Another self-made man, he began in 1953 with one of
the first "tilt-up" buildings in Santa Clara County. Sobrato,
who owns and manages the buildings it constructs and maintains single
tenant occupancy, boasts a portfolio of $1.5 billion. His assets include
land throughout Silicon Valley, San Jose, Fremont, Newark and Santa Clara
and he has developed in excess of 7,000 rental units.
3. Be able to see the property for what it could be.
Just because you buy a shopping complex doesn’t mean that’s
the highest and best use of the property. Know the local zoning codes
and be open to the possibilities…Los Angelino Ed Roski did just
that. 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. The USC grad with a net worth
of $1.1 billion saw the highest and best use of the formerly blighted
area near the convention center and built the Staples Center with Philip
Anschutz. Roski is also 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 – where they have a 400-acre
business park and 3 million square feet of casinos.
4. Be tenacious and relentless. Billionaires don’t
let obstacles or pitfalls keep them from achieving their goals. Newport
Beach billionaire George Argyros is the grandson of Greek immigrants.
Argyros began by running a Palm Springs grocery. He graduated to buying
and selling corner lots at busy intersections for gas stations. Turned
to apartments in 1968. Today, as part of Arnel & Affiliates, Argyros
manages apartments and commercial properties in southern California. He
has a net worth of $1.2 billion.
5. Have a thick skin. People can be resentful and jealous
of successful people. Don’t let criticism of your work deter you
from your goals. Consider Red Emmerson – the second wealthiest real
estate titan in California. Emmerson is the largest private forestland
holder in North America - assets include 1.52 million acres in Northern
California, timberland stretching more than 350 miles from Mount Shasta
to Yosemite National Park. 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. Needless to say, Sierra Pacific is a darling of
6. Have superior information. If you do more research
than your competitors, you’ll have an advantage in any transaction.
Self-made billionaire Carl Berg was a loan processor before investing
in Silicon Valley commercial real estate with John Sobrato in the 1960s.
He 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,
major tenants include Microsoft and Apple Computer. Currently, the Atherton-based
businessman boasts a portfolio of $1.2 billion.
7. Don’t accept the cards you’re dealt. Forbes
notes that while one-third of the world’s 46 billionaires who make
their money in real estate inherited and then grew their fortunes, two-thirds
are self-made. Stockton-based A.G. Spanos Companies are known for building,
managing, and selling multi-family housing units; constructing master-planned
communities, and developing land. Although California based, they have
expanded to build more than 100,000 apartments in 18 states since 1960.
A.G. Spanos Companies have also developed top-class office space in San
Joaquin County. 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 has pledged $200 million
to San Diego for a new stadium for their football team.
8. Live in California. Of the 21 U.S. billionaires who
made their fortune in real estate, more than one-third live in Atherton,
Los Angeles, Newport Beach, Palo Alto, or Stockton.
9. Get, and stay, married. Of the 43 real estate billionaires
whose marital status is known, according to Forbes, 37 are married, while
only three are divorced and three are widowed.
10. Go back to school. Of the 26 real estate billionaires
whose educational attainments are known, 20 have a college degree or higher.
Five made it on high school diplomas, and one is a high-school dropout.
John Arrillaga is a big donor to alma mater Stanford University. 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
and Arrillaga are lifelong business partners who avoid debt, and the media.
Each has net worth of $1 billion.
For more on Southern California commercial properties there is a great
information blog at www.socalindustrialrealestateblog.com.