The 10 Greediest People of 2008
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This time of year always seems to bring a never-ending barrage of "top ten" lists. The year's top ten movies, the top ten books, the top ten news stories, and on and on. Here at Too Much we've decided to join in on the action -- with our very own list of America's top ten greediest.
We probably couldn't have picked a better year than 2008 to so "honor" our most avaricious. This year's stunning economic meltdown has fixed the attention of our entire nation -- and world -- on the grasping antics of those who yearn for ever more than they could rationally ever need.
But this year also presents enormous challenges for anyone bold enough to rank the greedy. With so much greed out there, how could we possibly limit our list to a mere ten?
The latest greed explosion to hit the headlines -- the $50 billion Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme -- illustrates just how difficult a task ranking the greedy can be.
To whom in this scandal should we award the most greed points? Bernie Madoff himself, the 70-year-old who scammed his wealthy friends and charities to keep up his credentials as a Wall Street investing "genius" -- and maintain a $6 million pad in Manhattan, a waterfront mansion in Palm Beach, and a weekend getaway on Long Island?
Or should those greed points go instead to the ever-so-sophisticated hedge fund "middlemen" like Walter Noel, who built a five-manse fortune by steering clients to Madoff and charging them tens of millions in "due diligence" fees for the steering.
Or should the greed points go to Madoff's investors themselves, the swells who pay $250,000 a year for the privilege of belonging to a swanky country club?
So many choices! How about James Cayne, the Bear Stearns CEO who rode toxic securities into billionairedom? Or Angelo Mozilo, who took the same ride at Countrywide Financial, spreading suffering to subprimed families all along the way?
In the end, we came to realize, the size of the fortune alone doesn't determine greed. It's the thought that counts. In that holiday spirit, we hope you find our top ten greedy list of some interest -- and greed-busting inspiration.
10: Dwight Schar
Any list of 2009's greediest has to start, of course, with the power-suits who pumped up -- and profited ever so lavishly from -- the now-burst housing bubble. In November, Wall Street Journal researchers scoured the records of firms that build and finance housing and found 15 top executives who have pocketed, "in cash compensation and proceeds from stock sales," at least $100 million over the past five years.
Among the fortunate 15: Dwight Schar, the chair of homebuilding giant NVR Inc. The 66-year-old Schar has cleared $625 million since 2002. In 2004, he spent a good chunk of that buying an ocean-facing mansion in Florida's Palm Beach for $70 million, the highest price up to then ever paid for a U.S. residential property. The seven-bedroom home came with a walk-in humidor for cigars.
Schar's legal residence, a gated estate just north of Washington, D.C., sits on 10 acres overlooking the Potomac. NVR stock has dropped over 60 percent since its housing bubble peak, but neither of Schar's two main residences figures to foreclose anytime soon.
9: Patrick Soon-Shiong
Why does health care in the United States cost so much? Maybe somebody should ask Patrick Soon-Shiong, the Los Angeles drug developer who this September saw his personal fortune -- $3 billion last year -- take a giant first step toward more than doubling.