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50 Wealthiest: Andrew & Peggy Cherng #23

NET WORTH: $2.1 billion +8%

LAST YEAR: $1.95 billion

AGE: 64 (Andrew)

RESIDENCE: South Pasadena

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Restaurants

THE MONEY: Sales of Panda Restaurant Group, No. 3 fast-casual restaurant chain in United States, rose to more than $1.5 billion last year, augmenting co-owners’ net worth.

BUZZ: The couple launched nearly 100 stores last year, expanding empire to more than 1,400 locations, including first Panda Express outside the United States in Mexico City. Company owns nearly all stores and branched out with new Rosemead company, Panda Dry Cleaning, which plans to open some 200 shops in partnership with Procter & Gamble. First shop, under the brand Tide Dry Cleaners, opened in December in Las Vegas. Couple also active in philanthropic and political circles. Pledged $2.5 million to Cal Poly Pomona’s Collins College of Hospitality Management. Donated to a range of national and local political campaigns, including Mitt Romney and Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel. Andrew Cherng started Panda in 1973, opening sit-down Panda Inn in Pasadena with $30,000 and help of his chef father, Ming Tsai Cherng. Peggy, a computer engineer, joined Panda in 1982. Andrew is a proponent of self-help programs such as Landmark Education, in which he encourages Panda’s managers to participate. Couple shares chairperson and chief executive titles.

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