Smidt, who owns 100 percent of the Harbor Freight chain, has in the past used debt to pay dividends, increasing his wealth. A new $2.2 billion debt facility retired an existing $1 billion note last year, boosting both the valuation of privately-held Harbor Freight Tools USA Inc. and likely offering up an opportunity for another large dividend payout. Smidt lives in Beverly Hills on a property known as the Knoll Estate, which is valued at $54 million.
The Calabasas-based hardware retailer has more than 800 stores nationwide, as well as e-commerce and catalog sales. Harbor Freight generates about $3.8 billion in revenue annually, according to a 2017 report from Moody’s Investors Service. Smidt co-founded the company with his father in 1977, and he bought out his shares in 1999. Born in Los Angeles, Smidt spent two years in an orphanage, sent there at the age of 9, while his mother was suffering with multiple sclerosis. Smidt and his wife, Susan, have donated to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, USC, and UCLA and most recently, $50 million to Cedars-Sinai.
Last year: $3.7 billion
RESIDENCE: Beverly Hills
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Tool hardware retailing