The Richest Real Estate Investors In America

Real estate has created countless multimillionaires throughout the years. It's also created more than its fair share of real estate billionaires. Here is a short rundown of the richest investors in the world of real estate.

Please note that all net worth figures are estimates.

Jerry Speyer: $4 Billion Net Worth

Tishman Speyer is a prolific real estate developer, with over 152,000,000 square feet of real estate. This includes includes skyscrapers in Paris, Frankfurt, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York. The company also developed landmark New York properties such as the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center.

Jeff Sutton: $3.8 Billion Net Worth

Wharton Properties’ founder, Jeff Sutton, owns prime Manhattan retail locations. Wharton Properties has acquired over 120 properties in the greater New York market. The company owns marquee properties situated on 34th St., 5th Avenue, and Times Square.

Igor Olenicoff: $3.9 Billion Net Worth

When he was a teenager, Igor Olenicoff migrated from the USSR to the USA. Olenicoff's real estate business, Olen Properties, owns over 8,000,000 ft.² worth of office space along with 15,000 California apartments.

Sheldon Solow: $4.2 Billion Net Worth

Sheldon Solow built New York City’s 9 West 57th St. – which is a 50 story office building with  unobstructed Central Park views. The property is home to high profile hedge funds and private equity firms such as KKR, Apollo and Tiger Global Management. The vast majority of Sheldon's net worth is in this one property. Proving, that real estate investors can build an entire company around one great asset.  

John A. Sobrato and Family: $4.3 Billion Net Worth

John Sobrato began investing in real estate as a college student. With help from his mother - a talented real estate investor herself - John he began developing commercial properties in the early 60's. He named the firm The Sobrato Organization, which went to to develop much of Silicon Valley. This included developing sprawling  campuses for many of the major tech firms.

Leonard Stern: $4.5 Billion Net Worth

Leonard Stern wasrunning the pet supply company started by his father in 1959. 7 years later, hejumped into the property market. He began by buying a New Jersey warehouse. Thecompany Stern founded, “Hartz Mountain Industries,” currently owns 50 million squarefeet of industrial, hotel, office, and residential properties along the easternseaboard.

Sam Zell: $4.8 Billion Net Worth

Similar to John Sobrato, Sam Zell started his journey to becoming one of the richest real estate investors in college. While studying law at Michigan University, Sam managed a small portfolio of apartment buildings. In 1969, Sam Zell co-founded Equity Group Investments. Zell amassed an impressive portfolio of assets then went on to pioneer the REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) sector. Today, Zell serves as the chairman of several public including industry giants Equity Residential (one of America’s largest apartment REITs) and Equity Lifestyle, the 2nd largest owner of manufactured housing properties. Zell previously owned Equity Office, an office REIT, that sold to Blackstone for a record $39 Billion just before 2007’s real estate crash.

Stephen Ross: $7.6 Billion Net Worth

The Related Companies’ chairman and founder, Stephen Ross, began his career with the development small affordable housing properties. Ross later expanded to more ambitious projects, including redevelopment of New York City’s Hudson Yards. After spending over a decade planning the project and constructing it, the two initial phases opened in 2019. The Hudson Yards features retail space, a hotel, offices, and residences all spread out across eight different structures.

Sun Hongbin: $9.2 Billion Net Worth

Sun Hongbin obtained his wealth mostly from his international investments. He is the founder of “Sunac China Holdings,” a large real estate developer in China that focuses on the development of large-scale residential properties. His company diversified and expanded its property empire in 2017 after acquiring a tourism and hotel portfolio owned by Wanda Group for approximately $9.3 billion.

Donald Bren: $15.5 Billion Net Worth

The richest real estate investor in America is Donald Bren, who resides in Newport, California. The majority of his wealth stems from the “Irvine Company", which Bren purchased  in 1977. At the time, the company owned 93,000 acres in Orange County, CA called the “Irvine Ranch”. Over the next few decades, Bren's company transformed South Orange County into a collection of award winning, master planned communities. As of today, Bren's portfolio consists of nearly 120 million square ft. of commercial property in one of the wealthiest counties in the world.

What Is the Common Denominator Between The Richest Real Estate Investors?

The majority of billionaire real estate investors amassed their portfolios through ground-up development. Developments carry the highest risk, but can deliver staggering long-term returns if successful.
Sam Zell is a notable exception on development. Sam believes developing carries too much execution and timing risk. We at REIT Dividends tend to agree. If there is sufficient supply, its best to pursue existing, cash-flowing properties at fair or perhaps distressed pricing. While the potential returns are not as high, neither are the risks.

Real Estate Prints Billionaires

Real estate is a playground for entrepreneurs with access to capital & investor networks. We would argue, that real estate investing offers the highest probability of achieving substantial wealth (multi-million net worth). Reason being: The richest estate investors have unfair advantages compared to other industries. Real estate investors can use high leverage, low interest rates, and tax incentives to generate great wealth. Investors can capitalize on these advantages by purchasing real estate directly or by investing passively through REITs.

Timely REIT Research

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