Donald T. Sterling

Net Worth: $500 million

Age: 60

Source of wealth: Real estate, sports

Residence: Beverly Hills, Malibu

Most know Donald T. Sterling as the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, or as the mysterious real estate magnate who runs full-page tombstone ads in the Los Angeles Times declaring his abundant access to capital.

Few know that the “T” stands for Tokowitz, Donald’s original surname, given to him at birth in East Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights.

Working his way through Southwestern Law, Sterling made his first mark as a divorce lawyer; then as a charming litigator on behalf of airline crash victim survivors.

He invested in Southern California apartment buildings starting in the early 1960s. He always bought in better and better neighborhoods, and usually when the market was down. Raymond Burr, John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor and Burt Lancaster all sold him buildings as did a then financially struggling Jerry Buss in the 1970s and early 1980s, just before the real estate boom.

In the torrid Southern California real estate markets of the late 1980s, Sterling’s $1 billion real estate empire (largely apartments) was appreciating at $194 a minute, by one estimate. But, of course, prices have softened considerably decreasing his net worth.

Sterling largely stopped buying property by 1987 and moved to the sidelines for almost a decade, but he is beginning to buy again.

One thing Sterling does not like to do is develop property. “I am not a developer. I don’t take chances,” he once told a reporter. “I only buy in places like Beverly Hills, which in the long run, can only go up.”

Benjamin Mark Cole

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