Name: Gary Winnick

Age: 50

Net Worth: $1 billion

Source of Wealth: Investment and merchant banking

Residence: West L.A.

A onetime furniture salesman, Gary Winnick was with Michael Milken in the late '70s, when junk bonds became the accepted way to finance dealmaking.

Winnick was tapped by Milken to become part of the original crew that opened Drexel's West Coast offices. In those days, it was considered an honor to work for Milken because everyone who did became a millionaire.

Winnick started the Pacific Asset Group partnership in 1985, across the street from Drexel's famed Beverly Hills address. In the early days, Winnick and Pacific Asset were regarded as Milken proxies since Richard Sandler, Milken's private lawyer, also was the partnership's lawyer. Today, Winnick says Milken has no financial stake in his successor company, Pacific Capital Group.

Winnick is emerging as one of the biggest business titans in Los Angeles, with interests ranging from the massive Playa Vista real estate project, to insurance companies based in Switzerland, to undersea telecommunications cables between the United States, Asia and Europe.

After more than 20 years in investment and merchant banking, Winnick hinted recently that he had reached billionaire status, now requisite to be considered among the truly rich. "In this town, you have to be a billionaire to get reservations. Finally, I'm getting them," he said.

A recent private bond offering prospectus on Winnick's sea-cable venture, Global Crossing Holding Ltd., revealed that Pacific Capital and another Winnick entity will own 22.3 percent of the venture. Insiders say that makes Winnick's stake in the cable firm worth $700 million, (although personal stakes are not revealed).

Says one associate: "He is making more money than just about anybody else in town. And it isn't by luck."

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.