How These 5 Billionaires Used Real Estate to Build Their Empires

In April, Forbes published an article outlining the industries that produced the most billionaires.

The list included some of the biggest names in the world: Warren Buffett (financing and investment), Jeff Bezos (technology) and Michael Bloomberg (Media and Entertainment). While each of these billionaires made major investment moves, it’s safe to say that these mega-rich CEOs know how to diversify their portfolios. Almost certainly, their portfolios include real estate.

When it comes to investing, few options feel safer in trying times than real estate.

Perhaps this is why these five billionaires built their fortunes by acquiring real estate, homes and land. Real estate produced 193 billionaires, equal to 7% of the total list. Five of the most interesting real estate billionaires include:

Stan Kroenke: Owner of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (holding company for Los Angeles Rams, Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, Arsenal FC and others), husband Ann Walton Kroenkedaughter of co-founder of Walmart Inc James “Bud” Walton, Kroenkey is a real estate legend. The Kroenke Group was founded in 1983 and made its money building shopping malls and apartment complexes. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of its plazas have been developed near Walmart stores. Kroenke is also president of St. Louis-based THF Realty, which specializes in suburban development.

Related: Investors earned 45% IRR on this passive real estate investment through First National Realty Partners

Kroenke also buys land for uses other than housing and shopping. In 2006 he acquired Screaming Eagle Winery in Napa Valley. He also invests heavily in ranches, owning nearly 1 million acres. As of 2015 The Land Report magazine ranked him as the ninth largest landowner in the United States. So while not quite at Bill Gates level of land investment, it’s clear that Kroenke sees value in farmland.

Wu Yajun: The only woman on this list, Yajun was once the richest self-made woman in the world. Starting out as a journalist and editor, she wasn’t always wealthy or invested in the world of real estate. While she was writing, Yajun’s newspaper was controlled by the Construction Bureau of the Chongqing Municipal Government, which paved the way for relationships that would later serve her well in the real estate sector. What is now known as Longfor Properties, Yajun is the co-founder, chairman and former CEO of what is now known as Longfor Properties.

Longfor Properties was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (SEHK) in 2009.

Dan Gilbert: The 23rd richest person in the world according to a March 2022 Forbes report, Gilbert owns Rocket Mortgage LLC, Rock Ventures LLC and the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA. Gilbert earned his law degree from Michigan State University and is a member of the State Bar of Michigan.

But it was a side venture in college that got Gilbert to where he is today. He earned his real estate license while in college and worked part-time at his parents’ Century 21 agency.

Rock Financial started in 1985 with several others, including his brother Gary Gilbert. The company survived the 1980s and 1990s and made a turnaround in the Internet age when they adopted a strategy that eventually helped them earn the title of the largest retail mortgage lender by volume in the United States.

Gilbert is a philanthropist and has led an ongoing revitalization effort in Detroit. Many of his companies originate, are housed and thrive in the city.

Peter Woo: Woo is a Hong Kong businessman whose estimated net worth was recently estimated at $14 billion.

A student at the University of Cincinnati, Woo earned his MBA from Columbia University and began working in New York at Chase Manhattan Bank where he met his wife, Bessie. His wife’s family business centered on real estate, with her father owning the property development firm Wheelock & Co. Woo joined Wheelock & Co., eventually taking over the firm.

Under his guidance the company grew in size and reach and established a huge presence in Hong Kong. The company now develops and invests in retail, residential and office space.

Li Ka-shing: One of Asia’s most influential businessmen, Ka-shing lives up to his Superman nickname. Despite losing around $14 billion between 2018 and 2020, Ka-shing has rebounded and is worth $34.8 billion today.

During the 1950s, Ka-shing had the foresight to capitalize on emerging trends. He became suspicious of the rising cost of rent and was able to buy and develop a building of his own. Later, when people were leaving Hong Kong en masse, Ka-shing took a gamble again and took advantage of falling prices.

The result was a new property development company — Cheung Kong. Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong grew rapidly and went public in 1972. Ka-shing now has the largest real estate holdings in the world. For perspective, Cheung Kong made up 4% of the total market capitalization of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2012.

Ka-shing’s notable transactions include The Center, which is the fifth tallest skyscraper in Hong Kong. Valued at US$5.15 billion, the deal was the largest sale of office space in the Asia-Pacific region. Ka-shing also sold the Century Link complex in Shanghai for $2.95 billion, which was the second largest transaction for a single building.

Highlights of today’s real estate investment news

  • The real estate investment platform backed by Bezos Homes arrived launched a new batch of offers to allow retail investors to buy shares in single-family rental homes with a minimum investment of $100. The platform has already financed over 150 properties with a total value of over $50 million.

  • The CalTier Multi-Family Portfolio Fund recently completed a new investment in a portfolio of four apartment buildings consisting of 185 units. The CalTier Multi-Family Portfolio Fund is one of the few non-traded real estate funds available to non-accredited investors and has a minimum investment of $500. Year to date, the fund has produced an annual cash return of 7.02%.

Find more real estate investment news and deals at Benzinga Alternative Investments

Photo by Francois Roux on Shutterstock

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