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Florida boasts 10 of world's richest

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By ROBERT TRIGAUX, Times Business Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 28, 2003


Given the sagging stock market, billionaires should be as hard to find in Florida these days as a happy Oakland Raiders fan.

So much for logic. Despite tough financial times, Florida is home to 10 of the nation's 222 and the world's 476 billionaires, says the new annual ranking by Forbes magazine. That's up three from the seven billionaires who called Florida home last year.

Here are the Sunshine State's 10 billionaires, richest first: Micky Arison; Daniel Abraham, Robert Rich Sr.; H. Wayne Huizenga; James Moran; George Lindemann and family; Arthur Williams; James C. France and William France Jr.; and Mark McCormack.

A few nuggets to ponder on Florida's megawealthy:

-- Combined, Florida's 10 billionaires have a net worth of $15.3-billion. A year ago, Florida's seven billionaires had a net worth of $12.1-billion. That's impressive, since U.S. billionaires collectively lost $98-billion last year.

-- The combined $15.3-billion of Florida's billionaires is still $25-billion less than the net worth of Bill Gates, still the world's richest individual at $40.7-billion.

-- Among this year's 10 Florida billionaires, four are new. Three just attained billionaire status, while the third relocated to Florida from New York. Of last year's seven Florida billionaires, all but one made this year's list. Only Ocala's Charlotte Colket Weber, the Campbell Soup heiress with a net worth last year of $1.1-billion, does not appear this year.

-- Nobody from the Tampa Bay area or even Florida's gulf coast is a billionaire, according to Forbes. This area's richest individuals -- Jabil Circuit's William Morean, ex-shopping center developer Edward DeBartolo Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer, and Home Shopping Network co-founder Roy Speer -- are each worth hundreds of millions but failed to reach the magic $1-billion status.

-- Four of Florida's 10 billionaires call Palm Beach home. Two are from Daytona Beach. The remaining four live in Bal Harbour (near Miami), Hillsboro (south of Boca Raton), Fort Lauderdale and Windermere (west of Orlando).

-- Florida's 10 billionaires earned their money in different businesses. They range from cruise ships, food and diet products, to garbage disposal, video rentals, cable TV, term life insurance, auto racing and sports management.

Who are these 10? In order of wealth:

1. Micky Arison, 53, Bal Harbour. Ranks 104th, down from 103rd last year, on Forbes list of the world's richest people. Net worth: $3.2-billion down from $3.6-billion. Father Ted Arison started Carnival Cruise Lines in 1972. Micky took over in 1979 after his father moved to Israel and turned Carnival into the world's largest cruise operator.

2. Daniel Abraham, 79, Palm Beach. Ranks 222nd, up from 234th last year. Net worth: $1.8-billion, unchanged. World War II veteran made fortune with Slim-Fast weight-loss-supplement maker. Sold business to Unilever for $2.3-billion in 2000.

3. Robert Rich Sr., 89, Palm Beach. Tied at 222nd, up from 277th last year. New to Florida list after relocating from New York. Net worth: $1.8-billion, up from $1.6-billion. Former milk company owner developed soybean-based whipping cream in 1940s, nondairy coffee creamer in 1960. Expanded into frozen foods, food services. A minor-league baseball team owner.

4. H. Wayne Huizenga, 65, Fort Lauderdale. Ranks 236th, down from 234th last year. Net worth: $1.7-billion, down from $1.8-billion. College-dropout-turned-entrepreneur started Waste Management in 1962 with one used garbage truck, then bought 19-store Blockbuster Video chain in 1984, sold to Viacom 10 years later for $8.4-billion. Now runs AutoNation, world's largest new and used car dealer. Got big boost from recent investment by money manager Eddie Lampert, says Forbes. Owner of NFL's Miami Dolphins.

5. James Moran, 84, Hillsboro. Ranks 303rd, up from 351st last year. Net worth: $1.4-billion, up from $1.3-billion. After fixing cars and running gas stations, bought a Toyota distributorship in 1968. Now his JM Family Enterprises business, Southeast Toyota, is the nation's largest privately held foreign-auto distributor and dealer. Daughter Patricia runs the company.

6. George Lindemann, 66, Palm Beach. Ranks 348th, up from 378th last year. Net worth: unchanged at $1.2-billion. Sold soft contact lens patent for $60-million in 1971. Started Vision Cable, sold for $220-million 1982. Sold Metro Mobile cell service to Bell Atlantic for $2.6-billion in 1992. Current chief of natural gas company Southern Union, plus owns 19 Spanish-language radio stations.

7. Arthur Williams Jr., 60, Palm Beach. Tied at 348th, up from 351st last year. Net worth: $1.2-billion down from $1.3-billion. Former high school football coach built insurance company A.L. Williams based on selling simple term life insurance. Brief and dissatisfied owner of Tampa Bay Lightning hockey franchise.

8 and 9: James C. France, 58, and brother William France Jr., 70. Daytona Beach. Tied at 427th and new to world billionaire list with $1-billion apiece. Via publicly held International Speedway, brothers control stock car racing's NASCAR circuit. Popularity still immense despite efforts by rival CART league (which raced in St. Petersburg this month). Father Bill France started NASCAR in 1947 and built Daytona International Speedway.

10. Mark McCormack, 72, Windermere. Tied at 427th and new to list with $1-billion. Built International Sports Management, or IMG, into giant of athlete and star representation. Arnold Palmer was first client in 1968. Now represents stars like Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, supermodel Heidi Klum, musician Itzhak Perlman. Even the pope was once a client. He has seven addresses in five time zones but calls a gated golf community outside Orlando his home. In January, he suffered a heart attack in New York.

The billionaire's club is fluid, to say the least.

Look at who used to be ranked by Forbes in the mid 1990s among the state's billionaires. The reclusive Forrest Edward Mars Sr., who was wildly rich from Mars candy, passed away at age 95 in Miami in 1999. Several families also have slipped off the list, including the Davis family of Winn-Dixie wealth, the Jenkins family behind Publix Super Markets and the Collier family known for, well, Collier County.

A long, long time ago, millionaires used to be a rare species. Now you have to have $1-billion or more just to make a magazine list. Even in Florida.

-- Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8405.

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