by Mike Vogel
Updated 6 yearss ago
The state has always attracted the well-heeled. But more billionaires are choosing to live here.
ON A BRIGHT SUNDAY morning in February, a hint of cool in the air, a 20-year-old woman with freckles floats her horse over the fences in an arena at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington. For hours, in every direction as far as one can see, hundreds of equestrians like her ride horses over obstacles in the 18 arenas at the 500-acre venue. The scene bespeaks sport, pageantry and money. Lots and lots of money.
The young rider in a black jacket and white pants is Jennifer Gates, daughter of the world’s richest man. In a couple of hours, in the main arena, Georgina Bloomberg, daughter of billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will compete against Jessica Springsteen, Bruce’s daughter, and others. Eve Jobs, daughter of the Apple founder, rode the same week.
Jennifer Gates is such a presence at the 12-week festival that the Gates family bought a 4.5-acre equestrian estate near the festival grounds in 2013, then kept buying adjoining properties until they had shelled out $38 million for a whole street. A two-minute walk away, Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs bought a $15-million ranch. The Spring-steens have a place, as do the Bloombergs and throngs of less well known but well-off others. Horses on average cost $100,000, and the festival draws more than 5,000 of them. That’s a half a billion dollars on the hoof.
Florida has attracted the well-heeled since the days of Henry Flagler, but as our list of Florida’s wealthiest permanent residents shows, more and more are choosing to live here. For Florida Trend, consulting and advisory firm Global Governance Advisors identified the 25 wealthiest people who claim Florida as their primary residence.
There are a lot of take-aways from the list. As Global Governance senior partner Luis Navas notes, many on the list are self-made. Generally speaking, those on the list haven’t made their money in agriculture or tourism, but the sources of their fortunes are diverse compared to billionaires in other states. One shared trait: Old money didn’t get them there — they’ve kept working.
The key take-away from the list is this: It requires more money — gobs more — to make and keep a place on the list. When Florida Trend did this list four years ago, Florida’s richest person was the late Subway founder Fred DeLuca, with $5.4 billion. He would miss the top five today. In 2013, making the cut for the top 25 required $1.2 billion. Today, it takes $2.6 billion.
Wilbur Ross, President Trump’s Secretary of Commerce, just missed the cut at $2.5 billion. He’s up half a billion dollars since 2013 and lives on a $23-million, one-acre estate on Palm Beach, not far from Mar-a-Lago.
The rankings have been disrupted by the arrival of new, very big money from the likes of Interactive Brokers founder Thomas Peterffy and hedge fund manager David Tepper. Florida offers them favorable tax treatment that their respective home states, Connecticut and New Jersey, didn’t, Navas says. Florida has no state income tax, let alone a surcharge for being a multi-millionaire, nor does it have county or city income taxes or a state inheritance tax. Its asset protection laws are stronger. They can buy bigger properties for their money. Florida offers quality of life, cost-effectiveness and good weather, Navas says.
The state also offers sumptuous housing, lifestyle and, depending on the activity — witness Jennifer Gates — world-class facilities and events. Communications technology and ease of travel leaves the super-wealthy at no disadvantage in conducting business remotely, especially for financial industry players.
Some — Tepper, for example — even move their operations here. “Florida is a very different place than it was in the ’70s and ’80s. I’m certainly seeing in my practice more and more businesspeople saying, ‘I love the life in Florida. Let’s move the business entirely,’ ” Navas says.
As the hundreds of riders in Wellington demonstrate, Florida as wealth magnet draws far more than the 0.0001% (of the state’s population) who made our top 25 list. In 2014, Florida ranked fourth nationally, with 4,710, in the number of people with at least $30 million, according to a study by UBS.
The wealthy aren’t evenly distributed around the state. Of the top 25, 19 live in south Florida. Neither Florida Trend nor Forbes magazine found a billionaire Floridian in Jacksonville or Orlando. Timeshare developer David Siegel in Orlando is closing in, and the Weavers in Jacksonville would be over the top if they had held onto the NFL Jaguars.
We’re told there are more quiet billionaires in Naples than is publicly known. The city, after all, is home to the famed Naples Winter Wine Festival, which serves as a fundraiser for a local children’s and education foundation. This year, one bidder dropped $480,000 at auction for a 2017 McLaren 570 GT, and two bidders put down a combined $600,000 for a week’s vacation on Malcolm Forbes’ former yacht.
There are other well-known billionaires who aren’t quite rich enough to make the top 25. Carol Jenkins Barnett, daughter of Publix founder George W. Jenkins, has a reported $1.67-billion fortune. Tom James, executive chairman of Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg, has $1.14 billion in Raymond James stock alone. (The wealth swings at the top level are enormous in gross dollars. A $1 rise in RJF’s stock is a $14.7 million gain for James.) St. Petersburg also is home to Ron Wanek, who in 1970 became general manager of a 35-employee manufacturer of tables and cabinet commodes in Wisconsin. With the help of son Todd, he grew it into Ashley Furniture, which now lays claim to being the largest furniture maker in the world. Wanek’s impact on Florida, though, aside from furniture stores, is scant.
As was true in Flagler’s time, there is no place for the rich and famous like Palm Beach — and not just because it’s the kind of place former President Bill Clinton and current President Donald Trump visit on the same weekend. The island is the second home of magnates like David Koch, Discount Tire’s Bruce Halle of Phoenix and Citadel hedge fund’s Ken Griffin of Chicago, not to mention Estee Lauder and Cox heirs, buyout maven Henry Kravis, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, casino owner Steve Wynn and, of course, the president of the United States.
Here’s one way to gauge the wealth. The home of Florida’s richest man, Peterffy, the fairly recent transplant from Connecticut, isn’t even the most expensive in Palm Beach, according to a list of the highest-taxed residential properties compiled by the Palm Beach Daily News, the “Shiny Sheet” that chronicles island life and news. No. 1 belongs to Griffin, whose Blossom Way holdings have a combined value of $136 million, with an annual property tax bill of $2.33 million. For perspective, that property tax bill alone is more than the annual income of all but the top 0.1% of U. S. tax filers.
On Palm Beach, the appraised value of Peterffy’s home is outgunned not only by Griffin’s estate, but also by the homes of radio’s Howard Stern, ($52.5 million) and Trump, whose Mara- Lago and associated properties rank only 28th on the island. Peterffy’s estate comes in 30th in taxes, with a $587,409 bill on $38.5 million in market value. That’s about par for him; though he’s Florida’s richest resident, he ranks 32nd nationally. Our 26th richest, Wilbur Ross, is 232nd nationally.
Another wealth indicator: Coincidental to the Trump-Clinton weekend visit in February, New York private equity firm head Stephen Schwarzman, of the Blackstone Group, threw himself a 70th birthday party at his Palm Beach estate that featured two camels, a gondolier, a fireworks show, Gwen Stefani flying in to sing him “Happy Birthday” and 400 guests — all for a tab the New York Times estimated at $7 million to $9 million.
The next day, no doubt too early for many of Schwarzman’s partygoers, young Jennifer Gates takes to the saddle as “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” plays over the arena speakers. She completes her course with nary a fault. But a score of others also ride fault-free. She immediately rides a “jumpoff,” again without flaw, but her time leaves her in 13th.
After dismounting, she mingles with the few spectators, catches up with one mom about a friend’s college plans and then joins three friends who came to watch her. Ensuing riders knock Gates down in the standings. But she doesn’t finish out of the money. Her 19th place brings $330 — about what her dad earns every second he takes a breath.
Florida’s Richest 25
Gender: All males
Average age: 68
Average net worth: $4.7 billion
Median net worth: $3.8 billion
Bachelor’s holders: 20
Advanced degree holders: 6
Never graduated college: 4
Two-year degree holders: 1
Florida natives: 0
Florida college graduates: 0
Most prevalent source of fortune:
Real estate: 4
Made it in Florida: 5
Of the five who amassed their fortune in Florida and built companies here and employed substantial numbers of Floridians, only one did it in tourism and travel. One did it in real estate. One was a company acquirer and builder. The other two were in bio-manufacturing and pharma.
1 Thomas Peterffy, 72
A Hungarian immigrant who made his mint as a pioneer in electronic and online stock trading, Peterffy moved to Florida in 2015. His biggest splash in Florida came last year in the Big Bend area, where he bought what is said to be the largest contiguous undeveloped property east of the Mississippi — more than a half-million acres in five counties, including more than half of Taylor County [“Florida’s Newest Land Baron,” February, FloridaTrend.com]. He hasn’t even publicly acknowledged being the buyer. He has a six-acre estate on Palm Beach. He called the election for Trump in October, telling CNBC, “I wouldn’t give 2 cents for what the New York Times says about this election. Obviously, they are very biased and in the Democrats’ pockets.”
2 David Tepper, 59 $11.4 billion
As a boy, the Pennsylvania native watched his father trade stocks. After studying at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon, Tepper eventually made his way into high-yield trading at Goldman Sachs before starting his own hedge fund firm, Appaloosa Management. He became New Jersey’s richest man and, in 2015, the richest man to leave for Florida. Carnegie Mellon named its business school after him after he donated $67 million.
3 Micky Arison, 67
In 2013, Arison ended his 34 years as CEO of the Carnival cruise line business he had built into its leviathan scale after taking over from its founder, his father, Ted. Former Monsanto executive Arnold Donald became the first non-Arison to lead the company and made Carnival the largest company in Florida headed by an African-American. It employs 3,000 in Florida. Arison remains chairman. His father brought the Miami Heat franchise to Florida in 1988, but it’s been Arison and his hire, Pat Riley, who made it a three-time champion. Arison’s net worth is up $2.7 billion in four years.
4 Shahid Khan, 66
While his 2012 purchase of the Jacksonville Jaguars brought him to prominence in Florida, his visions for real estate development there so far haven’t come to fruition, and the team continues its losing ways. The value of the franchise, however, has more than doubled since he bought it. His larger fortune, built on his automotive parts business, has risen simlarly. His net worth is up $4.6 billion since our 2013 ranking. He gave $1 million in 2016 to Baptist Health in Jacksonville. In Naples, he has a $9-million penthouse at the waterfront Regent.
5 Charles Johnson, 84
The retired chairman of mutual fund company Franklin Resources, a firm started by his father, came to Florida very late in life from California. Franklin employs 1,100 in Florida. Johnson gives big to national causes, not so much in Florida. The Yale alum, for instance, gave $250 million to the university in 2013 to build two residential colleges there. Johnson is the largest owner of the San Francisco Giants, which were contemplating a move to Florida in the early 1990s until he joined a Bay area ownership group to block the move.
6 Dirk Ziff, 52
North Palm Beach
Dirk Ziff, eldest of the Ziff brothers, is dealing of late with small potatoes financially. He took over as head of the World Surf League, a venture into which Ziff has put a reported $30 million. “I believe strongly in the power of surfing to impact people’s lives, and it’s that power that brings surfers and non-surfers alike to our sport and community,” Ziff says. Dirk and his brothers started with the Ziff-Davis publishing fortune built by 6 their father. They got rid of publishing but expanded the fortune 10-fold through their Ziff Brothers Investments. Dirk Ziff’s net worth is up $600 million since 2013. A guitar collector, he also has a home in Martha’s Vineyard. The extended Ziff family has their father’s 33-bedroom, 16-acre estate in Manalapan south of Palm Beach on the market for $195 million.
7 Paul Tudor Jones, 62
Jones, the latest hedge fund manager to choose Florida, is a former cotton trader whose average annual return for three decades has been 17% after fees. His firm has an office in Palm Beach but its headquarters remains in Connecticut. In 2015, the same year he bought the Casa Apava estate on Palm Beach for $71 million, he gave a TED talk decrying the wealth gap in America and warning it could spark revolution. Jones is a co-founder of the Everglades Foundation, a major enviro player in Florida. Its annual benefit this year at The Breakers on Palm Beach was MC’d by Norah O’Donnell and featured performances by Roger Daltrey and Jimmy Buffett; the guest list included fellow Palm Beach billionaire Thomas Peterffy. At the bash, Jones called for people to pressure state leaders on the foundation’s cause. “There’s so much power in this room, so many of us have relationships with these guys, that if we actually came together and told them, ‘You know what? Enough is enough. We’ve got to stop it.’ ”
8 Reinhold Schmieding, 62
Schmieding is among the few on our list who are entirely self-made and who made their money in Florida. Born in the U.S. to German immigrants, he started his independent business life in Germany before coming to Florida and building Arthrex, one of the world’s leading orthopedic surgical instrument and supply companies [“Rein-Gold,” August 2016, FloridaTrend.com]. It employs 2,510 in southwest Florida and 3,661 globally. He supports local causes, and Arthrex is known in southwest Florida for supporting the considerable volunteerism of its employees. He lives on a lake north of Naples’ downtown.
9 Terrence Pegula, 65
Natural gas fracking carried Pegula to riches. The big Penn State donor has his primary residence near Boca Raton, but his heart looks northward. He bought the Buffalo Bills for $1.4 billion, besting suitor Donald Trump. He also bought the Buffalo Sabres for $189 million and developed a hockey mecca real estate project in downtown Buffalo, where his daughters recently opened a restaurant. He’s up $800 million since 2013. Pegula and his wife, Kim, paid $6.58 million for a 12-acre estate in an equestrian-themed area northwest of Boca in 2010.
10 Russ Weiner, 46
The son of talk radio’s Michael Savage, Weiner is the youngest billionaire on our list. He founded Las Vegas-based beverage company Rockstar Energy in 2002. Although Rockstar plays third fiddle to Monster and Red Bull in the energy drink game, it’s made him plenty. He bought a house in Delray Beach, but in 2016 he went big with the purchase of a Kobi Karp-designed, $20-million, seven-bedroom Miami Beach bayfront mansion that’s his official primary residence. His 161-foot yacht, the Rockstar, was damaged in 2014 when a Miami draw bridge failed as it was going under. At the time, Weiner offered it for charter. To charter it for a week cost the rough equivalent of four years at a private university.
11 Isaac Perlmutter, 74
Stan Lee gets the Marvel movie cameos; Perlmutter gets rich while staying reclusive. How reclusive? It was news internationally in late 2016 when the first public photograph of him in 35 years was taken in Palm Beach. Perlmutter, a friend of Donald Trump, was meeting at Mar-a-Lago with the then president-elect when Reuters shot a picture through a window. Perlmutter’s wife, Laura, was on Trump’s inaugural committee. Perlmutter is a veteran of Israel’s Six-Day War, came to the U.S. with $250 in his pocket, started a toy company, wound up in control of Marvel and built it into an entertainment juggernaut he sold to Disney in 2009 for $4 billion. In recent years, he got tangled in some twisted litigation in Florida over — what else? — a condo owner with a grievance. Meanwhile, his net worth has doubled since our last list.
12 Robert Rich Jr., 76
Rich is nearly the quintessential Keys transplant. Quintessential in that he moved to the Keys from a cold climate, discovered a love of fishing and now tells fishing stories. Quintessential with this exception: He built the Buffalo,N. Y., family business, founded on non-dairy whipped topping and Coffee Rich, into an operation that employs 12,000. He’s written three books on fishing and, recently, a novel. In four years, he’s up nearly $2 billion in net worth. He owns three minor league baseball teams and chairs the Cleveland Clinic board. He is the former vice chair of the International Game Fish Association, which is based in Dania Beach. He sold the Buffalo Sabres to fellow Florida billionaire Terrence Pegula. In the Keys, he owns restaurants.
13 Igor Olenicoff, 74
Olenicoff’s Olen Properties owns 12 apartment developments and an office project in Florida with the balance of its holdings in California, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona. The child of Russian immigrants, he studied corporate finance and mathematics at Southern Cal and eventually bought a 16- unit duplex that began his vast real estate company. He paid a $52-million fine and was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty in 2007 to filing of a false tax return in connection with squirreling money away offshore. Being spared jail time later became a precedent cited by other tax cheats in their sentencing hearings. In 2014, a federal court ordered him and his real estate company to pay $450,000 in damages to a sculptor whose work they had copied; another court awarded $640,000 to another sculptor. Olenicoff’s net worth is up $1.2 billion since 2013.
14 Phil Frost, 80
Star Island, Miami
The doctor and health care entrepreneur is also among the few on our list who’s self-made — and who made his money in Florida. He is shoveling it out fast: $100 million to the University of Miami last year to fund engineering and science program upgrades, $35 million for a new Miami science museum. Even so, he’s up $700 million since 2013.
15 Jeff Greene, 62
Greene came to Florida with his family in the 1970s, working for a time as a busboy at the Breakers. He made it big in California betting against subprime mortgages but, now back in Florida — “the next Henry Flagler,” the local paper dubbed him — he’s bought upward of $300 million in local real estate, developed a 548-unit apartment project and has sites for office, condo and hotel towers. He and wife, Mei Sze, founded an innovative private, pre-K-8 school in West Palm Beach with a student-teacher ratio of 2-to-1. The majority of students attend on financial aid. His net worth increased $700 million since 2013.
16 George Lindemann, 80
He buys, holds, sells and scores — whether it’s the family eye-products company, cable, mobile or energy. His most recent triumph was selling the Southern Union pipeline company for $5.7 billion in 2012. He’s more than doubled his money since 2013. Frayda Lindemann, his wife, is vice president of the Metropolitan Opera’s board.
17 Tom Golisano, 75
Golisano’s move to Florida from New York in 2009 presaged the coming of Tepper, Peterffy and other billionaires. Golisano, the founder of Paychex, said at the time the move would save him $13,800 a day. In Florida, he has supported Ave Maria University, what’s now called the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples and the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. He also of late gave $25 million to the Special Olympics. It hasn’t dented his account. He’s up $1.6 billion in four years. He has a $14-million waterfront home in Naples.
18 Richard Schulze, 76
The Best Buy founder has a foundation that last year gave $10 million to the American Cancer Society and is very active in his native Minnesota. In Florida, it accepts grant pitches only from organizations in Lee and Collier counties. His net worth has increased $600 million in four years.
19 Edward DeBartolo Jr., 70
“Mr. D” was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. He ceded the 49ers to his sister in 2000 and focused on the real estate side. In Tampa, the real estate firm head gives to local causes, including supporting the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School. He’s up $600 million since 2013.
20 Jorge Pérez, 67
Miami’s premier condo developer, Pérez is wrapping up condo projects in Florida in favor of rental housing developments and projects abroad. Born to Cuban parents in Argentina, he’s self-made and made-in-Florida, first developing government-supported housing before switching to luxury condos.He purchased a unit in a Fort Lauderdale condo he developed, Auberge Beach Residences & Spa, for use as his beach pad. He has talked of turning over the business to sons Jon Paul and Nicholas. His Related Group is separate from New York-based Stephen Ross’ Related Cos., though they each have an ownership stake in the other. Pérez also has an interest in Ross’ Dolphins, of which he’s vice chairman.
21 J. Christopher Reyes, 63
22 M. Jude Reyes, 61
Christopher and his brother Jude sit atop Reyes Holdings, the Chicago-based beer, soft drink and food wholesaler that ranks as the nation’s 12th-largest private company. In 2014, they opened a 16,000-sq.- ft. Headquarters office in West Palm Beach, close to the brothers’ Florida homes. The move also signified the company’s increased investment in Florida, where they have Florida Distributing, which supplies 6,000 retailers in central Florida with domestic, import and craft beers, and Pompano Beach-based wholesaler Gold Coast Beverage Distributors in south Florida, the largest beer distributor in Florida and one of the top 10 in sales nationally. Reyes’ Martin- Brower unit is McDonald’s largest food supplier.
23 Kenneth Feld, 68
Feld Entertainment closes its Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus next month but Feld, thanks to monster trucks, ice shows and other arena entertainment, looks to be doing just fine. The circus elephants, already retired,live as North America’s largest elephant herd at his conservation center in Polk County. In Manatee County, he has a colossal warehouse-rehearsal- monster truck garage building, purchased for $30 million in 2013 in a corporate recruitment greased with $3.3 million in state and local incentives.
24 H. Wayne Huizenga, 79
The self-made Huizenga has been quieter in recent years. At one time, he owned the Miami Dolphins, the then Florida Marlins and Florida Panthers. He had six companies on the NYSE and is the only person to found three Fortune 500 companies. For Disney, it all started with a mouse. For Huizenga, it all started with a garbage truck. His fortune is up $200 million in four years. In January, Huizenga’s wife of nearly 45 years, Marti, passed away.
25 William H. Wrigley Jr. II, 53
North Palm Beach
The chewing gum heir turned a stalled family business into a growth company, then in 2008 sold it to Mars for $23 billion. He declared Florida residency the following year. His fortune has increased $400 million since 2013.
Billionaire Breaks Ranks
Coral Gables billionaire Mike Fernandez — “Florida’s newest billionaire” when we last did the list in 2013 —broke with his Republican past last year over Donald Trump. The serial health care entrepreneur said he would back Hillary Clinton but ultimately told reporters that on election day he wrote in Jeb Bush. (He reportedly donated $3 million to Bush’s political action committee.) Anthem acquired Fernandez’s Simply Healthcare Plans managed care company in 2015, the year after CVS acquired his Navarro Discount Pharmacy chain. His private equity firm remains active in Miami-based Concordia Care, Vero Beach-based eMindful and Miami-based Strategic Health Holdings.
Comings and Goings
Subway founder Fred DeLuca, our No. 1 from 2013 — who would rank sixth today — died in 2015. Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer, No. 5, died in 2014. For most who made our list in 2013 but not this year, it’s not that they became impoverished. “Their wealth increased in the past three or four years, but it hadn’t increased as much” as the wealth of others, says Peter Landers, partner at Global Governance Advisors. Billionaires left behind from our 2013 list: William Koch; Eddie Lampert, the hedge fund manager whose Sears is struggling mightily; Slim-Fast’s S. Daniel Abraham; construction company leader Alfred James Clark, who died; Netscape founder Jim Clark: car dealer Norman Braman [Icon, p. 16]; coal mogul Christopher Cline; and Red Sox owner John Henry.
The World’s Billionaires and Florida
In Mel Brooks’ 1976 film, Silent Movie, the slogan of the giant corporation, Engulf & Devour, was “our fingers are in everything.” The world’s billionaires have their fingers throughout Florida, a testament to the state’s attractiveness but also to the reality that when you have billions to deploy, it has to go somewhere.
Aside from owning an entire street by the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, owns or has invested in Florida farmland, in Tampa’s Channelside and Fort Lauderdale-based car dealer AutoNation, among others.
Spain’s Amancio Ortega, the world’s second-richest person, has backed the Epic Residences & Kimpton Epic Hotel in Miami. In December, he paid $517 million — cash — for Miami’s Southeast Financial Center, Florida’s biggest office building. Ortega has been buying trophy properties in trophy cities around the globe. He earlier bought a block on Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road for $370 million.
In 2008, the third-richest man in the world, Warren Buffett, made headlines when Berkshire Hathaway took $224 million from the state in return for a pledge to buy the state’s hurricane catastrophe bonds in the event the state got smacked by hurricanes as it had in 2004 and 2005. Some state leaders complained Buffett would make out like a bandit, but others counseled the state needed the insurance. No hurricanes blew and Buffett did well. Berkshire Hathaway’s fingers reach a wealth of places in Florida: Paint supplies, real estate brokerage, entertainment organizations, auto dealers, distributors and others.
The world’s No. 4, Mexico’s Carlos Slim, is more active philanthropically in Florida than some who claim the state as their residence, but he’s more in the news for dinner at Mar-a-Lago or with basketball stars here.
Larry Page and other Google billionaires touch Florida through Google’s investment in Magic Leap, an augmented reality company based in south Florida.
LVMH Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton, chaired by the 14th-ranked world billionaire, Bernard Arnault, played a critical role in the transformation of the rundown Miami Design District into a Louis Vuitton, Prada, Cartier, Harry Winston, ultra-luxe shopping area set to blossom even more this year.
The world’s No. 5 Jeff Bezos is a Miami-Dade high school grad. Amazon’s cavernous distribution centers continue to go up in Florida, while his Blue Origin rocket company is building a rocket factory just outside the Cape Canaveral space port fence.
No. 18, China’s Wang Jianlin, touches Florida through his Kansas Citybased AMC Theatres chain and owns Tampa-based World Triathlon, the organizer of Ironman triathlons.
London-born Bahamas investor and currency trader Joe Lewis and his Tavistock own the Pier Sixty-Six hotel and marina in Fort Lauderdale, the Isleworth and Lake Nona golf and country clubs and the high-impact Lake Nona development near Orlando with its health care business park that includes the UCF medical school, a VA hospital plus the USTA’s national campus and a planned training center for KPMG.
The Tax Factor
The wonder is that more rich people don’t move here. People who move from Middle Atlantic and New England states, depending on the state, can save 8% to 9% of income that otherwise goes to state, county and city income taxes plus spare their heirs from piggyback state inheritance taxes. Louis Balbirer, tax services principal at Kaufman Rossin in Fort Lauderdale, says establishing residency in Florida isn’t hard: Get a Florida driver’s license, own a home, register to vote, register the cars here. File for a homestead exemption to designate a Florida home as the primary residence. Live here at least 183 days a year. States up north will have a hard time going after someone for income tax who does all that. Balbirer says high net worth individuals, advised by accountants or lawyers, establish residency properly.
That New York Influence
Of the billionaires who officially reside in Florida, most seem to do little more here than own a home, dock a boat and escape state income and inheritance taxes elsewhere. These New Yorkers aren’t officially Florida residents but have homes here and affect Florida in important ways.
Len Blavatnik, 59
Russia-born, Harvard- educated Blavatnik resides in London and New York, but in Miami he has invested with Argentine developer Alan Faena on Faena’s Miami Beach arts district, a block including the ultra-luxe Faena Hotel, a condo tower with a $60-million double penthouse — bought by Chicago hedge fund head Ken Griffin and since relisted for $73 million — and other spaces public and private. Blavatnik is said to be the owner of the gold-plated mastodon on the Faena Hotel terrace.
Carl Icahn, 80
Indian Creek Village
The activist shareholder’s neighbors include hedge-fund manager Eddie Lampert, retired Dolphins coach Don Shula and car dealer Norman Braman. Icahn’s various Florida-related targets in recent years include WCI and Hertz.
Stephen Ross, 76
Oh, how the University of Florida wishes Ross hadn’t transferred as a student to the University of Michigan. The Miami Beach Senior High grad amassed a fortune in real estate with his Related Cos. And has become Michigan’s biggest donor, with more than $300 million given. He is the majority owner of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. In New York, his Related has the Time Warner Center and Hudson Yards. In Florida, it has the W South Beach Hotel on Miami Beach and, in West Palm Beach, CityPlace, which he has described as not a huge success financially. Ross’ influence ties, in a way, to Miami’s condo skyline. Ross once was majority owner of Miami uber-developer Jorge Pérez’s company. Pérez has been majority owner for years, though Ross still has a small stake.
Richard LeFrak, 71
Formerly an investor in BankUnited, LeFrak’s interests include 1 Hotel South Beach, but his major impact will be SoLeMia, a project slated for more than 4,000 residential units on 184 acres in North Miami. The name combines the first letters of Soffer, the Miami billionaire family behind Turnberry Associates, LeFrak and Miami.
Donald Trump, 70
The new president’s name is all over south Florida: Trump Grande and Trump Towers in Sunny Isles, Trump Hollywood, Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, Trump National Doral and Mar-a-Lago, now the weekend White House for the most powerful person on earth.
The 10 most expensive homes on the market in Florida
1 $195 million
The Ziff family owns the 33-bedroom, 16-acre estate south of Palm Beach. It has 1,200 feet of beach frontage, 1,300 feet on the Intracoastal and a furnished, air-conditioned tunnel running under A1A connecting the main house to guest houses. The property tax alone is $1 million a year.
2 $65 million
46 Star Island, Miami Beach
Built as the home of the Miami Yacht Club and later converted into a single-family home, it has 255 feet of waterfront. The 10-bed, 10-bath home, owned by Marco Iacovelli, founder of auto-parts company Rally Manufacturing, sits at the northern tip of Star Island, longtime home to some of Florida’s top business leaders and celebrities, including Emilio and Gloria Estefan.
3 $65 million
800 S. Pointe Drive Apogee South Beach
If he gets his price, investor William Dunker will set a record for a Miami Beach condo. His 8,271-sq.-ft. penthouse in the Apogee South Beach covers three floors, has five bedrooms, seven baths and 13,150 square feet outdoors with a pool, movie screen, kitchen and hot tub. Dunker bought it for $16.5 million in 2008.
4 $55 million
Faena House 3315 Collins Ave.,
Citadel hedge fund’s Ken Griffin paid $60 million for two units at Faena House in 2015. He’s since relisted them separately for a total of $73 million. Pictured is the penthouse, the higher priced of the two. The five-bedroom, five-bath unit has 8,273 square feet and a roof deck with an outdoor pool. The other unit is directly below.
5 $55 million 382 S.
Beach Road, Hobe Sound
Eight-acre waterfront estate on Jupiter Island owned by golfer Greg Norman.
6 $49 million
1832 Galleon Drive, Naples
Owned by Gail and James McCready. He owns an investment firm.
7 $43 million
3085 Munroe Drive Coconut Grove, Miami
Reportedly owned by Colombia interior designer Catalina Echavarria.
8 $39.5 million
321 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach
Owned by private equity head and former CEO of Russia’s Gazprom-Media Boris Jordan and his wife, Elizabeth, the four-bedroom penthouse has a dining table that fits 40. The couple bought preconstruction and listed it a few months after taking ownership.
9 $39 million
400 S. Mashta, Key Biscayne
Owned by Aurelio Fernandez, a retired tech executive and real estate investor, and his pediatrician wife, Berta, the bayfront, five-bedroom house was a location in the Miami Vice movie.
10 $35.9 million
5004 N. Bay Road, Miami Beach
The home is owned by developers and builders Chicken Kitchen founder Christian De Berdouare and his TV journalist wife, Jennifer Valoppi, who live nearby.