Billionaires among us
The annual list of the 400 richest people in America has once again been compiled by Forbes magazine.
And, as is frequently the case, many members of the list have strong connections to Aspen.
Some own property here. Many support local organizations. Some have family members who own property here. And many of them are either self-made or helped grow the family fortune.
To make the Forbes 400 list this year, you now have to be worth at least $1.3 billion dollars, which means that a number of billionaires with strong connections to Aspen are not on the Forbes 400 list, including Tom Bailey and Michael Eisner.
The $1.3 billion mark is not a requirement by Forbes, it is just there are at least 400 Americans worth at least that much today. And, yes, a good number of them help make Aspen what it is today.
Michael Dell, the founder of Dell Computer, is now estimated by Forbes to be the eighth richest American. Dell, 42, is now worth $17.2 billion dollars. He dropped out of college after he began selling computers from his dorm room.
Dell's connection to Aspen is his parents, Lorraine and Alex, who have a home in Aspen and are significant supports of the Aspen Music Festival and School. Michael Dell is also a regular participant in the Forstmann Little conference in Aspen (see related story) and frequently brings his four children here to see their grandparents.
David and Charles Koch
Right below Dell on the Forbes 400 list are David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries, which has interests in chemicals, pipelines, ranching, commodities trading, lumber, paper and refining, according to Forbes. They are both estimated to have a net worth of $17 billion dollars and, according to Forbes, they make $13.7 million dollars each and every day.
They both have homes in Aspen's West End. Charles's home is valued at $7.3 million by the Pitkin County assessor. The assessor lists two side-by-side homes for David worth a total of $12.6 million.
David once offered to build, at his cost, a skating rink on Wagner Park in downtown Aspen. He is also known locally for his over-the-top New Year's Eve parties and his extensive wine cellar. Today, he is the executive vice president of The Aspen Institute board of trustees.
Charles recently published a book entitled "The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World's Largest Private Company."
Rob and Carolyn Walton
At the number 12 spot this year on the Forbes 400 list is Rob Walton, son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and now the chairman of the world's largest retailer.
Rob Walton's former wife, Caroline Walton, has had a home in Aspen's West End for years and was recognized this year by the Aspen Music Festival as having given over $17,000 to the organization's annual fund. She is also a life trustee of the festival.
Rob Walton recently participated in a conference in Aspen marking the 25th celebration of the Rocky Mountain Institute.
The Crown Family
The Crown family of Chicago is listed at 68 on the Forbes 400 list with a fortune estimated at $4.5 billion and climbing, thanks in large part to the family's $2 billion stake in defense contractor General Dynamics.
The family, headed by 82-year-old patriarch Lester Crown, has arguably more influence in Aspen than anyone else on the Forbes list.
They own Aspen Skiing Co. Lester's son, James S. Crown, is the managing partner of the company and is the primary decision maker. He makes the calls on most of SkiCo's major decisions and stepped out of the background two years ago to personally lobby the Snowmass Village community to support the Base Village project, which is now under construction.
The company owns The Little Nell hotel and the Snowmass Club and operates Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk Mountain and the Snowmass Ski Area.
Lester Crown is currently serving as vice chairman of the Aspen Institute's board of trustees and he and his wife Renee have owned an Aspen Club condo for years.
Jim Crown, who has a seat on the board of the directors of General Dynamics and is the Illinois co-chair with billionaire Penny Pritzker for presidential candidate Barack Obama's fundraising committee. He and his wife Paula, who is on the national council of the Aspen Music Festival and School, have a home at the base of Buttermilk Mountain.
Other Crown family members also have homes in Aspen and the family supports many local non-profit organizations.
The Ziff Brothers
At number 91 on the list are three brothers with strong ties to Aspen.
Daniel, Robert and Dirk Ziff are each estimated by Forbes to be worth $3.5 billion. Their late father, William Ziff, Jr., built the Ziff-Davis publishing empire and only recently built a large and lavish home at the top of the exclusive Starwood neighborhood.
He and is wife Ann had been coming to Aspen for over 40 years and Ann recently contributed over $25,000 to the Music Festival's annual fund.
It's not clear how much time the three Ziff brothers, who all live in New York, according to Forbes, spend in Aspen or whether they have purchased property here outside of the family home, but they have plenty of time. Daniel is 35 (and single), Robert is 41 and Dirk is 43.
New on the Forbes 400 list this year is David Bonderman, co-founder of Texas Pacific Group, which is a private equity juggernaut.
Bonderman, who makes his debut on the list at 105, now has a net worth of $3.3 billion, according to Forbes. He is married to Laurie Michaels, who is a former elected member of the Aspen School District board. They live in a Wildcat Ranch home valued by the Pitkin County assessor at $25 million.
Bonderman is a self-made billionaire who graduated from Harvard Law School and worked for a time as a civil rights lawyer at the U.S. Justice Department. He keeps a relatively low profile in Aspen and is well-known is some circles for hiring the Rolling Stones to play at his 60th birthday party in Vegas in 2002.
Bonderman's co-founder at Texas Pacific, James Coulter, is also on the Forbes 400 list and he is said to come to Aspen each year for annual review of company business.
Matthew Bucksbaum and family are at 105 on the list as well, with an estimated net worth of $3.3 billion. Matt, and now his son John, run General Growth Properties, which has 194 shopping malls in its real estate portfolio.
Matt, who is 81, and his wife, Kay, have been coming to Aspen since 1953. They have a home on lower Red Mountain and are well-known and highly regarded by local arts organizations in Aspen.
Matt is past chair and serves on the executive committee of the board of the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he is also a life trustee. He and Kay recently gave $50,000 to the festival's annual fund and another $50,000 to the f estival's New Horizon fund.
They have also supported the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Aspen Public Radio, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Aspen Valley Hospital, The Aspen Institute and many other local organizations.
Another prominent supporter of Aspen cultural organizations is the 108th richest person in America, Leonard Lauder, with an estimated net worth of $3.2 billion. The 74-year-old son of cosmetic icon Estee Lauder has perhaps the closest West End home to Harris Hall, the Benedict Music Tent and The Aspen Institute.
He is chairman emeritus of the board of directors of the Estee Lauder companies and is currently serving on The Aspen Institute's board of directors. His wife, Evelyn, is a life trustee at the music festival.
Sid and Ed Bass
Another familiar name in America's elite circles is Sid Bass, who is at 117 on the list.
Bass, 64, who is said to be worth $3 billion, has owned a home on Red Mountain for years. From Fort Worth, Texas, he and his brothers inherited an oil fortune and then, for the most part, made it grow. Mercedes Bass, Sid's wife, is an Aspen Institute Trustee and is on the music festival's national council.
Sid's brother Ed Bass is at 165 on the Forbes 400 list with an estimated fortune of $2.5 billion. He owns a home along the Roaring Fork River east of Aspen.
His proposal to dredge and excavate a portion of the river in order to improve the trout habitat and help stem erosion on land owned by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies has generated criticism from his neighbors and will be reviewed by Pitkin County commissioners.
At 130 on the Forbes 400 list is a name that may be familiar to anyone who has paid a natural gas bill in Aspen in the past several years - Richard Kinder, as in Kinder-Morgan, which is now going by the name of Source Gas locally.
Kinder, 63, is said to be worth $2.9 billion. An avid fly fisherman, he has a home along the Roaring Fork River.
He is the former president of Enron who presided over the company's many years as the poster child for solid corporate earnings and innovative leadership. He left Enron in 1993 as he was wary of the company's more innovative strategies, which eventually got it in trouble. He recently took Kinder-Morgan private in a $22 billion deal and it is now called Knight Inc., according to Forbes.
Less well-known perhaps is Mel Simon, who is at 130 on the Forbes list with a net worth of $2.9 million. He and wife Bren have owned a home for years high atop Red Mountain.
He was once taken to task for using a sliver of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property when he built a swimming pool in the early 1990s. Other than that, he tends to keep a low profile in Aspen.
Simon, 80, runs Simon Property Group, which owns or operates nearly 260 million square feet of shopping malls, according to Forbes.
Leslie Wexner, the 70-year-old leader of Limited Brands, is at 135 on the list with a net worth of $2.8 billion. Limited Brands include The Limited, Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works.
He owns the third most expensive home in Aspen on a beautiful piece of upper Red Mountain, which the county assessor now values at $35 million. He is a lifetime trustee of The Aspen Institute.
Whether William Wrigley, Jr., who comes in at the 220th spot on the Forbes list, owns any property in Aspen is unclear. But one thing isw for certain: Aspen holds a special place in Wrigley's heart. The 43-year-old, fourth-generation member of the Wrigley family, which made a fortune selling chewing gum, was married in Aspen this August at the Aspen Chapel. He has a net worth of $2.1 billion.
For fans of live and local music, the name Calamos is probably becoming more familiar.
Calamos Investments is now a major supporter of Jazz Aspen Snowmass thanks to John Calamas, who at age 67 is worth $1.9 billion, which puts him at 261 on the Forbes 400 list.
Calamos has a home in Aspen and is the head of Calamos Asset Management, which has $43 billion in assets under its management. He has also invested in a pair of local businesses: Aspen Executive Air LLC and Zele Caf√©.
At 217 on the list is John Doerr, whose name now graces the new Doerr-Hosier building at The Aspen Institute, thanks to a significant contribution to the local nonprofit.
Doerr, 56, is worth $1.8 billion after making savvy start-up investments in companies such as Amazon.com and Google from his position at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, a Silicon Valley investment group. He is a current trustee of The Aspen Institute and recently interviewed Al Gore before a large crowd in the Benedict Music Tent.
One way to cement your ties to Aspen is to buy one of the valley's most visible properties, which is what Roland Arnall did when the bought what used to be called Mandalay Ranch in the Owl Creek valley for $46 million.
Arnall is worth $1.5 billion, which puts the 68-year-old at 317 on the list. A self-made man from California, Arnall built up mortgage lender Ameriquest and recently sold it to Citigroup for an undisclosed amount.
Another way to make a name for yourself in Aspen is to do something that surprises nearly everyone, which is what Christopher "Kit" Goldsbury once did.
The Aspen Institute built a cluster of townhomes on a bluff next to the Meadows Restaurant in the 1990s. And when Goldsbury found that the townhomes had a view of his property along Castle Creek below the bluff, he bought all of the townhomes and had them dismantled and taken away.
He is at 317 on the list and has a net worth of $1.5 billion. He made his money in salsa. He started low on the food chain at Pace Foods salsa and eventually sold the company to Campbell Soup for $1.1 billion.
According to Forbes, he once "sent fatigued employee on 1,000-mile drive from San Antonio to Aspen, Colo. in 2005; man fell asleep at wheel, crashed, eventually died from injuries. Goldsbury was sued for negligence, wrongful death; quickly settled."
Alas, there are a number of billionaires in the world with strong ties to Aspen that don't quite have what it takes to make the most recent Forbes 400 list.
They include Thomas Bailey, of Janus Funds, who owns a large ranch outside of Carbondale, Michael Eisner, the former head of Disney who owns a large home in Snowmass Creek, Ted Forstmann, a leveraged-buyout specialist who owns a home in Aspen and was a major backer of the Silver Lining Ranch, Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance, who owns property in Aspen's West End, and Sam Wyly, who owns property in Woody Creek, is the namesake of the Wyly Community Arts Center, and who recently purchased Explore Booksellers in Aspen.