By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
In 1995, before the road opened, Forbes estimated Bren's net worth at $2 billion, which made him the 44th-richest American.
Today, with the toll road feeding his Newport Coast developments and his other relatively new businesses along the 73 corridor, his minimum personal net worth is now $12 billion. That's a massive $10 billion increase. Only 25 people in the nation have more money.
Bren certainly builds eye-pleasing properties. But he isn't a business genius such as Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos. His awesome skill is manipulating the government to quietly serve his whims, a dark talent that doesn't jibe with his conservative Republican stances.
In recent weeks, a spat emerged involving toll-road funding, John Wayne Airport, the TCA and Supervisor John Moorlach. Bureaucrats at the San Joaquin Hills Toll Road slapped huge, onerous developer fees on certain airport businesses. According to a news report, one business received a $100,000 bill. Moorlach suggested the TCA eat the fees because they are unfair.
Thomas Morgro, a TCA official, didn't appreciate that. Morgro suggested county taxpayers might want to pay the controversial developer fees for the private road.
I have a suggestion. Why doesn't Bren pay the money—estimated to be less than $2 million? He can easily afford it. He wanted the road more than anyone on the planet. He got it, and he profited mightily from it.
But if our richest billionaire continues to leave for the restroom when the bill arrives, he'll need to amend his four-point legacy to include a fifth description: ungrateful cheapskate.
This column appeared in print as "Highway Robbery: Donald Bren's role in creating the San Joaquin Hills Toll Road is the county's most embarrassing un-prosecuted crime."