Donald T. Sterling
Net Worth: $750 million
Source of Wealth: Real Estate
Residence: Beverly Hills, Malibu
Donald T. Sterling was born in Boyle Heights, the son of a vegetable salesman who sold to restaurants. He stills owns the house in which he grew up.
He went to public schools, then USC, and then got a law degree from Southwestern Law, working his way through school and exchanging his given surname, “Tokowitz,” for Sterling. He said he liked the sound of “Sterling,” and that the name change was not an attempt to assimilate.
Sterling became a hotshot lawyer in the ’50s and ’60s, with an occasional movie star as a client. He invested the fruits of his courtroom victories in dozens of Los Angeles-area apartment buildings.
Sterling rarely, if ever, sells anything leading many to believe that his net worth has shot up during the recent jump in real estate prices. Almost all his apartment buildings are in tony locales, like Beverly Hills or Newport Beach. He also owns the Sterling Plaza office building in Beverly Hills.
Sterling’s secret? He says he never buys property unless the cash flow from a building covers the interest payments. But for all his shrewd investing repeatedly buying at low points of the cycle he is best known as owner of the hapless Clippers. But even here, Sterling is a winner: He paid less than $15 million for the team back in 1981. Today, any NBA franchise is worth at least $100 million. And because the Clippers soon will play in the spiffy Staples Arena, instead of the dowdy Sports Arena, it has become an even more valuable franchise.
Sterling, who only rarely grants interviews, once told a reporter that the most important thing a person can get in life “is an education. Because nobody can take that away from you.”