Net Worth: $3.9 billion
Source of Wealth: Oil, real estate and entertainment
Residence: Beverly Hills
Marvin Davis made his money in oil. And the wells are still gushing for the L.A. billionaire.
Earlier this year, Davis’ oil company, Davis Petroleum Corp., in conjunction with Texas Gas Corp. of Houston, discovered one of the largest oil reserves in years worth anywhere from $750 million to $2 billion. In addition, Davis reports through a spokesman that his company has had three or four other major oil strikes since then, in Southeastern U.S. fields. That means more big bucks coming down the pipeline for Davis.
Everything about Davis is big his wealth, his influence, his physical size. He and his wife Barbara are among the highest-profile couples in town. Their annual fund raiser, the Carousel of Hope Ball, draws more celebrities than virtually any charity event in the nation and raises millions to fight children’s diabetes. Last year’s event alone raised $6 million. The couple also has a political bent; they raised more than $2 million for President Clinton’s second presidential bid.
Davis and his wife are regulars on the celebrity social circuit, hobnobbing with the likes of Sidney Poitier, Merv Griffin, Candice Bergen and Sofia Loren. Davis himself is a regular at Spago in Beverly Hills, a short hop from his office at Fox Plaza in Century City. Upon his arrival, waiters bring out a special chair for him. Due to leg problems, he now uses a walker to get around, and he’s always surrounded by bodyguards whenever in public.
Like many moguls, Davis comes from humble beginnings. He grew up on the mean streets of the Lower Eastside of Manhattan, and then went into his father’s oil business after graduating from New York University in 1947. Soon, he proved to be skillful in the art of the deal, earning the nickname “Mr. Wildcatter.”
His interests eventually broadened beyond oil, with his purchase in the early ’80s of Twentieth Century Fox. Davis then sold off pieces of the studio, with the bulk going to Rupert Murdoch for $575 million in 1985.
From dabbling in Hollywood to real estate, Davis has owned some of the hottest properties in California and Colorado, including the Beverly Hills Hotel, Pebble Beach, the Aspen Ski Co. and the famous Fox Plaza, which he bought back last year for $284 million $36 million less than he had sold it for in 1988.
Davis attempted to purchase the Desert Inn Resort and Casino in Las Vegas last year from ITT Corp. for $150 million, but the deal fell through at the last minute. He reportedly has been in talks with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, which recently acquired ITT, in an effort to finish the sale.
Davis is known for going over every new investment opportunity with a fine-toothed comb and backing out of those he believes aren’t up to snuff. Among the high-profile operations he considered, but then decided not to purchase: CBS Inc., MGM/UA Communications, Lorimar Telepictures Corp., and the defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.