The USA’s 10 Richest People Who Invested In Property

By Nora Mathe

Even the least initiated of us have heard the saying “invest in real estate”. It is a viable business model: you invest a large sum of money, but make it back tenfold in rent.

Of course, buying prime, rentable real estate is no easy feat. The saying “you have to spend money to earn money” also rings true in the real estate business.

Most people who have the means to invest in property already have a large sum they can splurge. These business tycoons can become billionaires if they play their cards right. Let’s have a look at the top 10 US real estate tycoons who made billions!

10. Donald Trump


Net Worth: $3.1b

The current president of the United States once said that he received a “small loan of 1 million dollars” from his father to jumpstart his own business. Coming from money, Trump’s own wealth is accumulated through half a dozen properties he owns around downtown Manhattan. 

Wikipedia, Wikipedia

His portfolio includes Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City, Trump International Tower, and Hotel in Chicago and Trump International Hotel in Waikiki, Hawaii. Trump Hotels can be found in Scotland and Ireland, as well. He also invests in golf courses and luxury apartments all over the world, from New York to India and Indonesia.

9. Jerry Speyer


Net Worth: $4b

The real estate baron Jerry Speyer made his fortune in property, as well. He founded Tishman Speyer in 1978 with his father-in-law, and since then his wealth has been growing. He was part of the development of iconic buildings in New York City such as the Rockefeller Center and the Chrysler Building

Celebrity Net Worth, YouTube

His money is mainly in commercial real estate: his company developed office buildings and skyscrapers all over the world, in New York City, Chicago, London, Berlin, and Paris. He also owns Yankee Stadium and the Sony Center in Berlin.

8. Richard LeFrak & Family


Net Worth: $4.2b

The LeFrak Organization has been around since 1883, but Richard LeFrak and his father were the ones to turn it into the billion-dollar business we know today. The LeFrak family holdings include LeFrak City, a 20-building, 5,000-unit apartment complex in Queens, and hundreds of acres from Manhattan to Newport, New Jersey. 

Observer, Celeb Family

LeFrak’s main focus is on moderate-income tenants: he has properties all over New York City. But he has been expanding his business into luxury apartments, as well. His current largest project is SoLe Mia in Miami.

7. Leonard Stern


Net Worth: $4.8b

Stern started work at his father’s pet supply business in 1959. A mere 7 years later, he invested in real estate in the New Jersey area. His first acquisition was a warehouse. He continued his father’s business until 2000, when he sold it for $350m

Celebrity Net Worth, Forbes

Stern’s main dealings are in warehouses in the New Jersey area, but recently he has been expanding to Atlanta, Baltimore, and Charlotte, North Carolina. His company owns over 42 million square feet in real estate in New Jersey.

6. Ted Lerner


Net Worth: $5.2b

According to Forbes, in 1952, Lerner borrowed $250 from his wife to start a real estate business selling homes for developers. After selling over 22,000, he realized that there is money to be made in building properties, so he switched sides.

Biz Journals, Washington Post

Currently, he owns over 20 million square feet in real estate, mostly retail and commercial spaces, but he also focuses on hotels and apartments. His empire stretches across the United States: he owns properties in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C.

5. Edward Roski, Jr.


Net Worth: $5.5b

Roski is a true real estate mogul: he owns Majestic Realty, a company that develops business parks all over the United States. This firm has over 70 million square feet of rentable space, with tenants such as J.C. Penney. 

Majestic Realty,

Majestic Realty was founded by Roski’s father in 1948, so the wealth and the land ownership accumulated over the years. Roski Jr. was involved in the development of the Staples center and is a minority owner of the L.A. Kings and the L.A. Lakers

4. Sam Zell


Net Worth: $5.6b

Sam Zell started a company called Equity Group Investments in 1969, which invests in many industries today, such as healthcare, energy, transportation, and manufacturing. He is thought to be the forefather of modern real estate investment trusts.

WSJ, Chicago Sun Times

Forbes reports that his $39b sale of office REIT Equity Office to Blackstone just before the market crashed in 2007 was among the largest real estate deals ever. Zell chairs 5 public companies, including REIT.

3. John A. Sobrato and Family


Net Worth: $6.8b

Reportedly, John Sobrato started selling properties in Palo Alto, California, while he was still a student. Later, his mother joined him in founding his own real estate company in 1979. They own over 7 million square feet of mainly office spaces in Silicon Valley.

Biz Journals,

Their tenants include companies such as Netflix, and their work shaped Silicon Valley to be what it is today. The Sobrato family moved away from managing the company: John in the late ‘90s, and his son, John Michael Sobrato, in 2003, to focus on charity work, but currently, they hold over 110 commercial buildings and over 30 apartment complexes.

2. Stephen Ross


Net Worth: $7.6b

Stephen Ross is behind America’s largest private real estate project, Related Companies. His company developed over $60b worth of real estate all over the world, from the United States to Abu Dhabi. 

SCMP, Miami New Times

Business Insider reports that Ross founded Related with $10K lent to him by his mother. Among the properties under his belt, Ross has claim over the extremely lavish Hudson Yards apartments in New York City, valued at around $25b. He also has a stake in Equinox Fitness and Soul Cycle, among other business endeavors. 

1. Donald Bren


Net Worth: $17b

Donald Bren is the US’s richest real estate developer. His company, Irvine Co. owns over 115 million square feet of real estate in Southern California. Interestingly, Bren is a self-made businessman. He built his empire on a $10K bank loan. Currently, Irvine Co. is the largest landowner in California.

OC Register, San Diego Union Tribe

Bren’s portfolio has it all: office buildings, hotels, marinas, and apartments, most of which are located in Orange County. In total, Bren owns one-fifth of Orange County, which is five times the size of Manhattan. At 87 years old, he is still active in his company. 



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