The two wealthiest men in Los Angeles have a remarkable amount in common.
Both are natives of South Africa who immigrated to the United States after attending school in Canada. And both Patrick Soon-Shiong, who again tops the list of Wealthiest Angelenos, and Elon Musk, who vaulted to No. 2, made their fortunes in the entrepreneurial application of technology – Soon-Shiong in medicine; Musk in e-commerce and, later, electric cars, space exploration and solar energy.
If those similarities distinguish them from the rest of L.A.’s wealthiest, the gains they saw in their net worth this year are largely in line with the growth seen among all members of this year’s list.
All told, the 50 wealthiest people in Los Angeles have an aggregate net worth of $154 billion, with an average net worth of more than $3 billion. As a group, the returning members of the list saw a 14.3 percent increase in the value of their holdings over the course of the last year.
With few exceptions, the bulk of the members of the list reaped the benefit of markets that were on the rise.
Bruce Simon, chief investment officer of City National Rochdale, the wealth management arm of City National Bank in downtown Los Angeles, said that confidence in the economic recovery and low bond yields drove people to increase their investments in stocks. Last year’s return on equities was too good for many of them to pass up.
“There’s been such a wide spread between the return on stocks and the return on bonds, bond investors are feeling like they’re missing out,” Simon said. “People continue to gravitate back toward the stock market and away from bonds.”
Musk’s increases came from a very narrow portfolio: Shares of his Palo Alto car company Tesla Motors Inc. jumped 162 percent in the last 12 months, helping his net worth rise 68 percent to $9.57 billion.
That still left him more than $4 billion short of Soon-Shiong’s $13.9 billion.
The S&P 500 is up 16 percent over this time last year and Soon-Shiong’s portfolio, which includes majority stakes in privately held biotech and technology ventures, did even better. His diverse portfolio of equities and debt helped carry him to a 31 percent gain in net worth.
Being in equities has generally paid off handsomely. Simon said that while most of his high-net-worth clients achieved returns in the midteens last year, some who were highly exposed to the stock market had their portfolios appreciate by almost 30 percent.
“We thought last year would be pretty good,” he said. “We didn’t expect the kind of numbers that we got.”
Nonagenarian Sumner Redstone was another one of the biggest beneficiaries of last year’s bull run, as his stakes in entertainment companies CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. vaulted him to third place from No. 6 last year. Redstone’s net worth rose 45 percent to $7.67 billion.
Although the blistering stock market is largely responsible for the growth in net worth of many on the list, this year’s biggest percentage gainer is the principal of a private company.
John Tu landed in the top 10 as his Fountain Valley memory chip company, Kingston Technology Co., had a banner year as demand soared for memory products after a glut slowed the market in 2012. Tu’s net worth soared 88 percent to $4.5 billion, jumping him to No. 8 this year from No. 24 on last year’s list.
There were a few dips this year, notably for legendary investor Charlie Munger, whose $1.34 billion net worth was 4.7 percent lower than last year. However, the chairman of downtown L.A. legal publisher Daily Journal Corp. saw his fortune decline by choice: He gave away more than $190 million in Berkshire Hathaway stock last year.
Several new faces joined the exclusive club this year, led by Nicolas Berggruen at No. 27. The heir to a European art-dealing empire and erstwhile “homeless billionaire,” who used to travel the world on his private jet and bunk at luxury hotels, bought homes in West Hollywood and New York last year. He’s rumored to go back and forth between the two cities, but spends a lot of time at his eponymous Santa Monica think tank.
Calabasas discount hardware seller Harbor Freight Tools Chief Executive Eric Smidt made his debut on the list at No. 41. Just one spot below him, Ares Management Chief Executive Antony Ressler joined the exclusive club when Ares went public May 2. His wife, ABC’s “The Neighbors” star Jami Gertz, is already a familiar face.
Arguably the most colorful newcomer is Kuwait-born Bel Air resident Bassam Alghanim, who checked in at $1.38 billion. Alghanim sued his brother, Kutayba, for allegedly paying people to hack into his email while the siblings were battling over a business empire they inherited from their late father.
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