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Forbes' 400 Richest Americans Include 7 From Orange County

October 13, 1987|MARIA L. La GANGA | Times Staff Writer

The wildly wealthy of Orange County have some new neighbors on Easy Street, according to Forbes magazine's latest list of the 400 richest Americans.

And one hometown boy--whose fortune has doubled in the last year--has broken into the exclusive billionaire's club.

In all, the magazine lists seven from Orange County among its famous Forbes 400, up from three last year. The 1987 Orange County contingent has five newcomers , however, because one member of the 1986 group was dropped for reasons unexplained.

To make the list, all that was needed was a fortune of at least $225 million, up from the $180 million minimum in 1986.

Topping the list of Orange County's extravagantly enriched is reclusive real estate magnate Donald Leroy Bren, No. 30 on the Forbes 400 with a fortune weighing in at $1.25 billion. Bren, owner of the Irvine Co., is one of 49 billionaires listed, up from 26 last year.

New to Forbes' ranking of billionaires, along with Bren, are a reclusive candy-bar fortune heiress, the immigrant owner of a cruise line and nine dabblers in corporate takeovers. But their wealth remains dwarfed by No. 1 on the list: retail king Sam Walton, whose assets nearly doubled this year to $8.5 billion.

But Orange County doesn't do so poorly.

With less than 1% of the nation's population, the county claims 1.75% of its richest residents.

California, with 62 megamillionaires, ranked second behind New York--with 78--as home to the greatest number of the fabulously rich. Texas was third with 33 on the Forbes 400; Illinois came in fourth with 24, and Florida rounded out the top five, with 19.

The New York City metropolitan area is home to 80 of the Forbes 400, or twice the total of any other city. Los Angeles ranked second with 31 Forbes 400 members; Chicago was third with 22, and Dallas-Forth Worth and San Francisco tied for fourth with 19 each.

Just one Orange County resident was removed from the Forbes tally this year: Burton (Burtie) Green Bettingen, a daughter of Beverly Hills' first developer. Forbes estimated Bettingen's fortune last year at $235 million. She is one of three daughters of the late Burton E. Green, real estate developer and co-founder in 1911 of Belridge Oil.

In 1986, Forbes plucked Athalie Irvine Smith--know as Joan--from the list, when her fortune was recomputed and found wanting. That could change, however, because Smith--great-granddaughter of James Irvine, founder of the Irvine Ranch and granddaughter of James Irvine II, founder of the firm--is suing Irvine Co. current owner Bren over the valuation of the giant land development firm's 68,000 acres of mostly undeveloped land in Orange County.

Bren valued the company at about $1 billion when he agreed to buy Smith's shares in 1983. Smith has sued, alleging that the company really was--and is--worth about $3 billion.

If she wins, she would receive about $330 million for her 11% of the company.

Sketches of Orange County's richest people, Page 4.

List of Forbes 400, Page 13.

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