A former Grand Prix racing champion and son of billionaire Irvine Co. chairman Donald Bren occupies the No. 18 spot on the most recently updated list of California's most delinquent tax delinquents.
Steven and Cynthia Bren of Emerald Bay owe $2,209,561.23 in personal income tax, according to the annual Franchise Tax Board (FTB) list of the top 250 individual and business taxpayers with state income tax liens where the total balance owed is greater than $100,000. The lien against the Brens was filed March 20, 2009.
Other Orange Countians on the FTB top delinquents list include: Vito J. Caruso, M.D. Inc., A Professional Corporation in Tustin, $2.7 million (No. 9 in the state); William Boehringer of Huntington Beach, $2 million (No. 20); and Canyon Pacific OB/GYN Medical Associates Inc. of Irvine, $1.7 million (No. 23).
Laguna Niguel attorney Roland C. Colton, who Clockwork told you about when he made last year's list, remains delinquent with $1.3 million owed.
Celebs on the list include the numero uno space taker, CNET founder Halsey Minor and his wife Shannon Minor of San Francisco, with $13.1 million in delinquent personal income tax owed; former San Diego Padres star Kevin Mitchell, whose $5.2 million puts him sixth on the list; and actress Pamela Anderson, who is dancing with the star delinquencies to the tune of $493,000.
Given his up and down life, Steve Bren has built a strong tolerance to hot water by now. But his misery index does seem to be rising lately.
The 49-year-old's Irvine-based Bacchus Development firm, which billed itself as "one of the premier commercial real estate development firms in Orange County," filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September because it could not repay its bank loans due to slow sales.
Two months later, he moved from the bankruptcy court in Orange County to the criminal court in Malibu, where he owns a second home and was facing drug possession, domestic violence and trespassing charges.
Don Bren left his first wife and Steven's mom, Diane, shortly after the boy's 1960 birth.
During divorce proceedings, the not-yet billionaire father pleaded poverty--and that's pretty much how Diane, Steven and his brother were forced to live in tony Newport Beach.
"We were brought up without anything--anything," Steve Bren once told an interviewer.
He found sucess first riding motocross and then as an auto racer, competing in U.S. Formula Super Vee, American Racing Series and CART Championship Car series events in the 1980s.
He was a two-time Long Beach Grand Prix winner by 1986, when he completed the rookie camp for the Indianapolis 500, but he could not find a car for a qualifying run. Bren left racing in 1990.
He also worked as a vice president at daddy's Irvine Co. in the 1980s, but because he wanted to stick close to cars, Steve Bren left in 1987 to open the Newport Auto Center luxury car dealership.
His personal life also kicked into gear when he met model Thais Baker and wed her in a lavish 1988 ceremony.
It was about then his dealership started running into legal trouble.
Newport Auto Center got tagged for violating environmental laws, being swept up in a shady deal involving Lamborghinis and former Chrysler Corp. chairman Lee Iacocca, and getting caught with eight street-illegal Porsche Speedsters on the back lot.
Gossip around town shortly thereafter was Papa Bren was royally pissed. The lot was sold to a company owned by billionaire Wayne Huizenga in 1994.
Steve Bren had his first domestic violence case filed against him in Malibu in 1996. Thais Bren left him and married pro golfer Fred Couples in 1998. The domestic violence charges against Bren were dismissed in 1999.
Thais Couples died of breast cancer last year.
Though Bacchus built three office buildings in the Irvine Co.-owned Irvine Spectrum, Bacchus and Bren the son had no business affiliation with the Irvine Co. and Bren the father.
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"I sympathize with Steve and his business associates as they find themselves, like many fellow Americans, overwhelmed by these extremely challenging financial circumstances," Donald Bren said in a statement issued by the Irvine Co. after the Bacchus bankruptcy filing.
"Steve has told me he plans to work through his business issues on his own and he has not asked for my involvement in the legal reorganization of his affairs," the father continued. "I wish Steve nothing but the best as he works though this very difficult period. These are unprecedented economic times and they are having a particularly devastating effect on small business across the country."
In Steve Bren's most recent criminal case, domestic violence and dissuading a witness counts were dismissed by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge pending successful completion of domestic violence counseling.
A separate count of possessing drugs without a prescription was to be tossed if Bren finished drug counseling.