According to the newly released Forbes annual list of the world's richest people, there are 946 people in the world worth $1 billion or better. That's 178 more billionaires than Forbes counted last year. And yet somehow, even despite that remarkable growth in the membership of the International Billionaire Boys and Girls Club, I still feel confident in saying that if you're reading this blog, you didn't make the list. Sorry.
California did very well, and is more thickly carpeted with billionaires than any other state. OC, alas, doesn't crack the list until way down at number 80, when Donald Bren rears his reclusive head. According to Forbes, Bren is worth $8.5 billion. That was good enough to make him number 27 on Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans last September, but on a global scale, $8.5 billion won't even get you in the top 75. (You'd need more than $8.8 billion to rank 75th.) Still, Bren did a lot better than fellow Newport Beach plutocrat George Argyros-- best known internationally as our former ambassador to Spain, but well known locally for allegedly "masterminding a systematic "rip-off" scam involving his 4,500-unit apartment empire" which catered mainly to poor Vietnamese and Mexican immigrants-- who is a lowly no. 583, with only $1.7 billion.
Even if Bren isn't running with the biggest of big dogs-- no. 1, Bill Gates ($56 billion); no. 2, Warren Buffet ($52 billion)-- or weighing his wallet on the same scale as the richest Californian, Larry Ellison (no. 11, with $21.5 billion), he still has one distinction that is all his own among the billionaires. Have either Gates or Buffet or Ellison ever had their penises featured in an OC Weekly cover story? No, but Donald Bren has. Some honors just can't be bought, no matter how much money you have.
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Meanwhile, in other news, McClatchy Newspapers reports: "The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen."