Lower Red Mountain in Aspen, where several billionaires have homes.
Lower Red Mountain in Aspen, where several billionaires have homes.Smith/ / Aspen Journalism Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/ / Aspen Journalism

At least 50 billionaires on Forbes’ most recent wealth lists own property or have strong ties to property in the Aspen area.

As of March 2012, their combined net worths totaled more than $242 billion and the value of their local personal property tops $741 million. (The table below was updated on May 29, 2014).

NameForbes' estimate of net worth Property owned in Pitkin County, or other local interestSources/Notes
Charles Koch$25 billionOwns a home in the West End valued at $5.8 million.Assessor
David Koch$25 billionOwns two adjacent homes in the West End, one valued at $8 million and one valued at $4.7 million.Assessor 1
Assessor 2
Jeff Bezos$19.1 billionParents own a home on lower Red Mountain.Assessor
Michael Dell$15.9 billionHis MSD Capital has an interest in the The Related Companies, which owns Base Village and other properties in Snowmass Village. His parents also own a home on Red Mountain.Article
John Paulson$12.5 billionOwns Prince Bandar's former residence in StarwoodAssessor
Article 1/ADN
Assessor 2
Article 2/ADN
Article 3/WSJ
Artiicle 4/ADN
Article 5/ADN
Roman Abramovich$12.1 billionOwns two homes in Snowmass Village.Assessor 1
Assessor 2
Richard Kinder$8.2 billionOwns a riverfront estate in lower Woody Creek.Assessor 1
Leonard Lauder$7.1 billionOwns several adjacent homes in the West End.Assessor 1
Assessor 2
Assessor 3
Assessor 4
Philip Anschutz$7 billionA subsidiary of Anschutz Corp. owns a regional group of radio stations, including KSPN, Aspen and KNFO, Basalt.FCC filing
Graeme Hart$5.7 billionOwns a home above McLain Flats.Assessor
Jeffrey Hildebrand$5.3 billionOwns two homes just east of downtown Aspen, a ranch with a polo field in Snowmass Creek, and the Windstar property.Assessor 1
Assessor 2
Assessor 3
Assessor 4
Article 1/NYT
Article 2/ADN
Article 3/AJ
Article 4/AJ

Richard DeVos$5 billionOwns a home in Snowmass Village through Fox Mountain LLC.Assessor 1
RDV Corp info
Leslie Wexner$4.3 billionOwns an estate on upper Red Mountain.Assessor
Assessor 2
Daniel, Dirk and Robert Ziff$4.2 millionOwns homes and property in Starwood along with this two brothers.Assessor 1
Assessor 2
Assessor 3
Gustavo Cisneros$4.2 billionOwns a home at the base of Aspen Mountain.Assessor 1
Assessor 2
Company info
Bruce Halle$4.2 billionOwns a home in Wildcat.Assessor
William Koch$4 billionOwns four properties in upper Castle Creek valley, including the former Elk Mountain Lodge.Assessor 1
Clerk 1
Assessor 2
Clerk 2
Assessor 3
Clerk 3
Assessor 4
Clerk 4
Ann Walton Kroenke$ 3.9 billionOwns a home on Red Mountain with husband Stanley KroenkeSee notes for Stanley Kroenke above
John Sobrato$3.4 billionFamily owns seven units at the Timbers Club in Snowmass VillageAssessor
Stanley Kroenke$3.2 billionOwns a home on Red Mountain with Ann Kroenke. Also owns a condo at base of Aspen Mtn. and a retail building downtown.Assessor 1
Assessor 2
Assessor 3
Stephen Ross$3.1 billionHis private company, The Related Cos., owns the stalled Base Village project, and other properties, in Snowmass Village.Article
Ed Lampert$3.1 billionOwns a home in Starwood.Assessor
James Jannard$3 billionHe is a shareholder in Luxottica, the parent company of the Optical Shop of Aspen, which no longer has an outlet in Aspen.Article
Ken Griffin$3 billionOwns a home near Buttermilk.Assessor
Clerk 1
Clerk 2
Haim Saban$2.9 billionOwns a home east of AspenAssessor
Daniel Och$2.6 billionOwns a home a lower Red Mountain.Assessor
John Doerr$2.4 billionOwns a home near upper Red MountainAssessor
Mortimer Zuckerman$2.3 billionOwns a home on Red Mountain.Assessor
William Wrigley, Jr.$2.2 billionOwns a compound of three properties on lower Red Mountain.Assessor 1
Assessor 2
Clerk 2
Assessor 3
Clerk 3
Thomas Pritzker$2.2 billionOwns a home in the Maroon Creek valley.Assessor
J. Christopher Reyes$2 billionOwns a home near Buttermilk.Assessor
Assessor 2
Stewart and Linda Resnick$2 billionOwn a home east of Aspen.Assessor
Neil Bluhm$2 billionOwns a home on Red Mountain.Assessor
David Bonderman$1.9 billionOwns a home in Wildcat, as well as 5 lots in Cougar Canyon and 3 on Cozy Point Ridge.Assessor
Assessor 2
Mark Pincus$1.8 millionOwns a home in Woody Creek.Assessor 1
Assessor 2
Penny Pritzker$1.8 billionOwns a home in the Castle Creek valley.Assessor
Herbert Simon$1.8 billionOwns a condo at the base of Aspen Mountain.Assessor
Thomas Friedkin$1.6 billionOwns a a condo at the base of Aspen Mountain.Assessor
Ed Bass$1.5 billionOwns a home east of Aspen.Assessor
Assessor 2
Daniel Gilbert$1.5 billionOwns a home in Wildcat.Assessor 1
Assessor 2
Farris Wilks$1.4 billionOwns a home in The Pines in Snowmass Village.Assessor
Dan Wilks$1.4 billionOwns two homes near downtown Aspen.Assessor 1
Assessor 2
Christopher Kit Goldsbury$1.3 billionOwns a home in lower the Castle Creek valley.Assessor
Assessor 2
Frank Fertitta$1.25 billionHome in The Pines in Snowmass Village. (Apparently sold in December 2013).Assessor
Peter Lewis$1.2 billionOwned home in the West End in Sept. 2013. Passed away in Nov., 2013.Assessor
Dan Snyder$1. 1 billionOwns a home near Buttermilk.Assessor
Paul Singer$2 billion Owns two homes in Two Creeks in Snowmass Village through Tall Timber LLC and Big HIll LLC.Assessor 1
Assessor 2

But these billionaires’
stake in Aspen is greater than the sum of their local property values. Besides playing a significant part in Aspen’s economic engine in terms of employing maids, caterers, gardeners, attorneys, accountants, and real estate agents, these are people who have power and influence — and it’s often felt locally.

Many give money to or fundraise for local organizations and causes, allowing for a proliferation of nonprofits unheard of in towns of similar size. That in turn allows arts and culture, as well as educational, social, and environmental efforts to flourish here. Several sit on boards or councils of such organizations as the Aspen Institute and Aspen Music Festival, helping to create programs and fund expansions that benefit a wider community.

On the flip side, these second-home owners have bought into a real estate culture that some say has been detrimental to the Aspen community. The building sites of new mega-mansions scar huge swaths of land; once-bustling neighborhoods sit empty most of the year; and escalating real estate prices have driven an untold number of locals downvalley or out of the valley altogether.

Some have chosen to get even more involved locally — for better or for worse, or sometimes both. Bill Koch, for example, number 14 on the Forbes 400 list with a net worth of $4 billion, is one of several plaintiffs suing the city of Aspen over its plan to use water from Castle and Maroon creeks for hydropower. Is he in this case using his power and money to highlight a really bad idea, or to obstruct a widespread community benefit? Koch also wants to install guardrails (on his dime) along winding Castle Creek Road which leads to his home— a self-serving measure that would ostensibly make the road safer for all.

Stewart and Linda Resnick, 29th on this year’s Forbes 400 list, waged a legal war against local governments in the early 2000s over an employee housing project to be built near their home. They claimed in part that the worker housing would devalue their property, now worth $15.3 million. The Stillwater housing was eventually built, but with major design modifications.

Others’ influence is felt more broadly. Stephen Ross is head of New York’s Related Cos., which developed Snowmass Base Village but then defaulted on a major loan, leading to foreclosure on the property and a partially built development that has had major business ramifications and has been the source of much local concern.

But not every billionaire with an Aspen address made the Forbes cut. The cutoff for the most recent Forbes 400 list was $1.05 billion, leaving those with a mere $1.04 billion and below in the dust.

Then there are the heirs of billionaires, and those whose fortunes could rise (or fall) by a few million, who might make the list next year.

Starwood, where several billionaires have homes.
Starwood, where several billionaires have homes.Smith Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

Three prominent Aspen names are notably missing from this year’s Forbes lists.

Lester Crown, patriarch of the family that owns the Aspen Skiing Co., was number 208 on Forbes World’s Billionaires list in 2010 and the 66th richest American in 2011. But the family, which are majority shareholders of one of the largest defense industry contractors in the world, saw its fortunes plunge by $1 billion along with General Dynamics’ stock price during the Great Recession, according to a Forbes profile of Lester in 2009. A member of the Forbes 400 since it started in 1982, Lester Crown’s $4 billion of net worth is now spread out among family members, according to Forbes.

Those include his son Jim, who oversees the Skico for the Crown family. Jim and his wife Paula own a home at the base of Buttermilk valued at $8.7 million. Another son, Steve, has a home just outside of Aspen worth $11 million. Daughter Susan owns a property in the Owl Creek valley worth $18.1 million. And Lester and his wife Rene have owned a condo at the Aspen Club since 1980 that is now valued at $2.5 million.

Matthew Bucksbaum, a longtime second-home owner who with his wife Kay gave $25 million to the Aspen Music Festival and School for a new campus, has been on Forbes 400 lists since 2005, most recently number 379 in 2011. A grocer’s son, he built his General Growth Properties into one of the nation’s largest shopping mall empires, causing his family’s net worth to peak at $3.3 billion in 2007. But in 2009, General Growth filed for the largest real estate bankruptcy in U.S. history, according to Forbes, and the family lost billions of dollars tied up in the company’s stock — and their place on the Forbes 400 list.

Brothers Sam and Charles Wyly, each reportedly worth $1 billion, are known locally for their funding of the Wyly Community Art Center (Charles and wife Dee) and for buying Explore Booksellers (Sam and wife Cheryl) when it was in danger of being closed. Charles died tragically in a car accident last year, and Sam has been on either the Forbes 400 or World’s Billionaires lists since at least 2004. But at number 393 on the Forbes 400 list in 2011, Sam Wyly was close to the cutoff point and was officially dropped this year.

Following are the Aspen 50 — the 50 billionaires that appear on the most recent Forbes 400 and/or Forbes World’s Billionaires lists and own a piece of Pitkin County, whether it’s residential (in two cases it’s through close family) or through business interests.

Their connections to Pitkin County, which can be seen through public records, were identified by Aspen Journalism, using as primary sources the Pitkin County clerk and recorder’s office and the county assessor’s office. And this list may not be complete: it’s likely that even more billionaires on Forbes’ lists have a vested interest in Aspen, but their connections are harder to find.

The home values cited are from the Pitkin County assessor, and represent the most recent valuation period, which ended June 30, 2010. They are the values issued for tax year 2011. The billionaires are listed below by their rank on the Aspen 50 and their net worth as estimated by Forbes, as of March 2012.

#1 Charles Koch, $25 billion: Charles Koch is CEO of Koch Industries, an oil, gas, and chemical conglomerate which is the second largest privately held company in the U.S. Three Koch brothers own property in Pitkin County; Charles’ West End home is worth $6.3 million. Well known for their conservative politics, Charles and David (see below) are major Tea Party funders who are determined to unseat President Obama. They hold twice-yearly seminars to promote their agenda and recruit money and support for their political causes; one such event was held in Aspen in June 2010. Charles co-founded the libertarian Cato Institute in 1976.

#1 David Koch, $25 billion: David Koch runs Koch Industries along with brother Charles, and is New York City’s — and probably Aspen’s — richest resident. He owns two homes in the West End, valued together at $11.8 million, and serves on the board of the Aspen Institute, where a building is named after him. Fiercely political like his brothers, David Koch was the vice-presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 1980, and at one of the brothers’ conservative gatherings described President Obama as “a hard-core socialist,” according to Forbes.

#3 Jeff Bezos, $19.1 billion: The founder of the world’s largest online retailer, who is also 26th on the Forbes Billionaires list, can be considered visionary: Amazon wasn’t profitable for the first seven years of its existence. Locally, the Bezos family, which includes parents Jackie and Miguel, partnered with the Aspen Institute to create the Bezos Scholars Program, which brings high school students to the Aspen Ideas Festival. The Bezos family also supports the Aspen Writers’ Foundation and Theatre Aspen. Jackie and Miguel Bezos own a $20 million home on lower Red Mountain, and Jeff is known to be a frequent visitor with his family.

#4 Michael Dell, $15.9 billion: Known for founding Dell computers in 1984, Michael Dell now earns much of his wealth from his investment firm MSD Capital, which owns a percentage of The Related Cos., the former developer of Snowmass Base Village. Though frequently cited in media reports for being an Aspen resident, it’s actually Dell’s parents, Alexander and Lorraine, who own a $10.5 million home on Red Mountain.

#5 John Paulson, $12.5 billion: Hedge fund titan John Paulson made local headlines in 2010 when he paid $24.5 million for a home on McLain Flats, one of the largest prices ever paid for a single-family home in the Aspen area. But the man who became a billionaire by betting against the subprime mortgage sector in 2007 saw his net worth take a $3 billion hit in 2011. His Aspen estate is now valued at $15 million.

#6 Roman Abramovich, $12.1 billion: When Roman Abramovich paid $36.3 million for an estate on Wildcat Ridge above Snowmass in April 2008, it was the second highest amount ever paid for a home in the Aspen area, and the beginning of a wave of wealthy Russian visitors in Aspen. Although none were as wealthy as Abramovich, the one-time richest man in Russia who made his fortune with a series of controversial oil export deals in the early 1990s. But even with his stakes in giant extractive companies dealing in steel, gold, aluminum and natural gas, his fortunes have plunged since 2008, when he was worth $23.5 billion. Currently facing a potential net worth loss of $5 billion from a lawsuit by a former partner, Abramovich counts among his toys the world’s largest yacht, an ice boat, a Boeing 767, and the U.K.’s Chelsea soccer team. His fleet of crash pads includes homes in London, St. Barts, Sardinia, France, the Wildcat mansion (now worth $24 million), and a second Snowmass home valued at $7 million. It must be hard to take care of every detail — a contractor filed a lien against Abramovich in Pitkin County in 2010 for nonpayment of a $5,000 masonry bill.

#7 Richard Kinder, $8.2 billion: Co-founder of natural gas company Kinder Morgan, Richard Kinder owns a home valued at $11 million on the Roaring Fork River in lower Woody Creek. A former Army captain and Enron president, Kinder has personally done well from the recent acquisition of El Paso Corp. for $38 billion. The combined company, with some 80,000 miles of pipelines, is banking on future shale development to create massive demand for its product.

#8 Leonard Lauder, $7.1 billion: The son of cosmetics company founder Estée Lauder owns three homes and a vacant lot in Aspen’s West End with a collective value of $23 million. An avid art enthusiast, Lauder collects European skiing posters in one of his Aspen homes. He also serves on the board of the Aspen Institute, which has exhibited his posters and where he gave a lecture last year on the art of the poster. His son Gary, a venture capitalist who co-created the Aspen Institute’s Socrates Society, also owns a home in the West End; it is worth $14.3 million.

#9 Philip Anschutz, $7 billion: Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz apparently spends some time in the Roaring Fork Valley: He was one of the guests of the Koch brothers’ private meeting in Aspen in June 2010 (see above), and his older sister Sue Anschutz-Rodgers owns the Crystal River Ranch outside of Carbondale. The oil, telecom, sports, media, and entertainment mogul, whose Anschutz Entertainment Group controls sports teams like the NBA Lakers and manages pop stars including Justin Bieber, also has local business interests. His Anschutz Corp. is taking over ownership of NRC Broadcasting, which currently holds the FCC licenses for local radio stations KSPN (Aspen) and KNFO (Basalt). Anschutz is one of just a handful of people who have been on the Forbes 400 list since its 1982 inception.

#10 Graeme Hart, $5.7 billion: The wealthiest person in New Zealand is also a relatively new Aspen homeowner. Self-made billionaire Graeme Hart, who once drove a tow truck and made his fortune through investments, bought a mansion above McLain Flats in February 2011 for $16 million. According to New Zealand’s National Business Review, the packaging tycoon “snaffled” (got a great deal on) his Aspen estate, which was once listed for $32 million but is now, according to the county assessor, worth $16.6 million. Hart also owns two properties in New Zealand, a Fijian island, and a $100 million yacht — although he’s working on getting a bigger one.

The sign at the entrance to Wildcat Ranch, where several billionaires own homes.
The sign at the entrance to Wildcat Ranch, where several billionaires own homes.Smith Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

#11 Jeffrey Hildebrand, $5.3 billion: Houston oil magnate Jeffrey Hildebrand struck it big last year with an investment into Texas oil shale that resulted in a $3.5 billion sale to Marathon Oil. As his Hilcorp’s fortunes rose, so did his investment in Aspen. He and his wife Melinda have bought three properties east of the downtown core since 2006. They’ve created a family compound with two homes and a landscaped vacant lot, all now valued at $12.8 million. They also own a residence in the Snowmass Creek valley that they paid $13.3 million for in 2011.

#12 Richard DeVos, $5 billion: Another attendee of the Koch brothers’ 2010 Aspen political confab, Richard DeVos made his fortune from his company Amway (now called Alticor), which sells personal care and home products in more than 80 countries. He owns the NBA’s Orlando Magic and a ski-in, ski-out home in Snowmass Village valued at $5 million. He and his wife Helen are also donors to the Aspen Music Festival and School.

#13 Leslie Wexner, $4.3 billion: The Ohio law school dropout started The Limited in 1963 with a loan from his aunt; now the Limited Brands chain of mall staples can be found around the world. His personal empire has spread out, too: Wexner owns a home and plenty of acreage on upper Red Mountain valued at $31.4 million. He’s also made headlines locally for the past three years for his land holdings near Carbondale. He has proposed a federal land swap that would consolidate his 3,900-acre estate on the flanks of Mount Sopris and make public some lands that have recreational value. The Pitkin County government is against the swap, which typically requires an act of Congress to approve. Now Wexner, another member of the Forbes 400 since its first list in 1982, is pursuing an administrative decision by the BLM.

#14 Daniel, Dirk, and Robert Ziff: $4.2 billion each: Sons of publishing magnate William Ziff whose Ziff-Davis company included titles such as Car and Driver and Popular Aviation, the three Ziff brothers created their own empire with a small percentage of their father’s fortune (95 percent of the business was sold to Forstmann Little) and reinvestment in financial and real estate interests. Also thanks to their father, they are now deeply invested in Aspen — they’ve expanded the family holdings to include three homes in Starwood valued together at $26 million. The Ziffs also own $20 million worth of land in Starwood and $1 million worth of mining claims in the Aspen area.

#17 Gustavo Cisneros and family, $4.2 billion: Venezuelan businessman Gustavo Cisneros’ diversified empire includes Venezuelan TV stations, telecom, a brewery and a baseball team. He also owns two homes in Aspen under Shadow Mountain, one valued at $5.4 million and the other at $7 million.

#18 Bruce Halle, $4.2 billion: The founder of the world’s largest independent tire and wheel retailer, Discount Tire, owns a $30.3 million home in the Wildcat subdivision outside of Snowmass Village. Locally, his family foundation supports Aspen Valley Medical Foundation and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, among others.

#19 William Koch, $4 billion: The twin of David Koch (see above), Bill Koch is only one-sixth as rich as his brothers but still has plenty of money to burn. He converted the old Elk Mountain Lodge in the upper Castle Creek valley into his own private residence; his four properties there are worth $47.5 million. He reportedly paid $3.1 million for a faux Colorado ghost town that he moved to his 5,000-acre ranch near Paonia. Once a part of Koch Industries with his brothers, he sold out to them but later sued for more in a case that dragged on for 18 years. His penchant for legal action also includes being a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city of Aspen over its desire to use water for hydropower from Castle and Maroon creeks and suing the interior designer he hired for his Aspen home for not properly decorating the home in a Western theme. Bill Koch’s political tastes run close to his brothers’ — he and his energy development company Oxbow Carbon (which runs a coal mine near Paonia) gave a collective $1 million to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.

#20 Ann Walton Kroenke, $3.9 billion: A Wal-Mart heiress, Ann Walton Kroenke has the perfect billionaire love story. She met her billionaire husband, sports titan Stanley Kroenke (see below), on a skiing trip to Aspen. As the couple’s fortunes rose (her net worth is up with a 14 percent rise in Wal-Mart stock this year), they increasingly invested in Aspen and made the most expensive residential purchase of 2011 for their Red Mountain mansion.

A skier slides down to the base of the Two Creeks lift through the luxury neighborhood of the same name.
A skier slides down to the base of the Two Creeks lift through the luxury neighborhood of the same name.Smith Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

#21 John A. Sobrato, $3.4 billion: Silicon Valley real estate magnate John A. Sobrato’s eponymous company owns and manages 8 million square feet of commercial office space, and his family owns eight wholly owned units at the Timbers Club in Snowmass Village valued at a combined $16 million.

#22 Stanley Kroenke, $3.2 billion: Worth about $700 million less than his heiress wife Ann Walton, Stanley Kroenke can partially thank her family for his fortune. He made millions developing shopping centers anchored by Wal-Marts. He owns the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche, and has increased his stakes in the St. Louis Rams and the English soccer club Arsenal. He’s also been busy acquiring Aspen property: Besides a $6.5 million townhome at the base of Aspen Mountain and a retail building downtown, Kroenke last year paid $20.75 million for two adjacent properties on Red Mountain.

#23 Stephen Ross, $3.1 billion: Although Stephen Ross doesn’t appear to own personal property in Pitkin County, his Related Companies still owns $42 million worth of property in Snowmass Village, even after a consortium of European banks foreclosed on the partially built Base Village in 2011. The New York-based development powerhouse founded by Ross — who according to Forbes has been “on the prowl” for distressed properties since the economic downturn — once planned through its joint venture Related WestPac an 80-acre, master-planned development including Base Village, the Snowmass Center, and the Snowmass Mall area.

#23 Edward Lampert, $3.1 billion: A self-made billionaire investor, Edward Lampert’s most well-known acquisitions are Kmart and Sears Roebuck and Co.; he acquired the former in bankruptcy and the latter is his largest investment. Owner of a $14 million home in the gated Starwood neighborhood, Lampert has connections to other Aspen homeowners: He worked alongside Daniel Och (see below) at Goldman Sachs early in his career, and more recently, he bought $130 million worth of Sears stock from his own ESL Investments when his Starwood neighbors the Ziff brothers (see above) reportedly wanted out.

#25 James Jannard, $3 billion: James Jannard made his fortune from sunglasses company Oakley, which he took public and expanded to include goggles, ski/snowboard wear, bags, and footwear. Oakley bought the high-end Optical Shops of Aspen chain in 2004, which started in Aspen but now includes 36 boutiques. Jannard sold Oakley to optics giant Luxottica in 2007 for $2.1 billion, but still has a share of the now larger company.

#25 Ken Griffin, $3 billion: Ken Griffin has seen his fortunes fall and rise dramatically in the last few years. Griffin’s firm, Citidel, manages about $11 billion, although it recently sold its investment banking unit to Wells Fargo. Personally, Griffin owns a home at the base of Tiehack worth $9.4 million, and invests in Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney — he gave the Romney-supporting super PAC Restore Our Future $100,000 in February.

#27 Haim Saban, $2.9 billion: Israeli tycoon Haim Saban has a $6 million home near the Aspen Club. He made his fortune with the Power Rangers brand, and his Saban Brands also owns Paul Frank, whose cartoon Julius the Monkey adorns clothing, accessories and other products. Saban is chair of Spanish-language broadcaster Univision, which he bought with investors for $13.7 billion from Gustavo Cisneros, another Aspen-homeowning billionaire (see above).

#28 Daniel Och, $2.6 billion: The founder of hedge fund firm Och-Ziff Capital Management got his career start at Goldman Sachs’ risk arbitrage department with fellow Aspen homeowner Edward Lampert and struck out on his own with a reported $100 million from the Ziff brothers. Like the Ziffs, he owns more than one Aspen property: a home on Willoughby Way valued at $20.3 million, and a Red Mountain pad valued worth $13.5 million.

#29 John Doerr, $2.4 billion: California venture capitalist John Doerr earned much of his fortune from savvy early investments into Internet companies Amazon, Netscape, Sun Microsystems and Google, and later paid top dollar for stakes in Facebook, Twitter, and Groupon. His investment in Aspen is also very high profile: The Aspen Institute trustee is one of two namesakes of the nonprofit’s newest building, the Doerr-Hosier Center, with a reported contribution of $3 million. Doerr also owns a home along Hunter Creek valued at $12.7 million and was the founding funder of Aspen nonprofit For the Forest, which targeted beetle-infested lodgepole pines on Smuggler Mountain — Doerr’s backyard.

#30 Mortimer Zuckerman, $2.3 billion: The owner of U.S. World and News Report and the New York Daily News shares, Zuckerman also knows a thing or two about real estate: He co-founded Boston Properties and took it public in 1997. He owns a home on Red Mountain valued at $8.3 million. Zuckerman has at least one more thing in common with some other Aspen homeowners — his charitable foundation was ripped off by Bernie Madoff.

The Timbers Club at the base of Snowmass Ski Area. A number of billionaires own condos, or parking spaces, at the Timbers Club.
The Timbers Club at the base of Snowmass Ski Area. A number of billionaires own condos, or parking spaces, at the Timbers Club.Smith Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

#31 William Wrigley, Jr., $2.2 billion: Fourth-generation gum manufacturer William Wrigley, Jr. oversaw the sale of the family company to candy maker Mars for $23 billion in 2008. He left the combined company in 2011, according to Forbes, “to pursue philanthropic interests.” And to spend more time in Aspen? Wrigley bought a $10 million home overlooking the Rio Grande Trail in October 2011, creating a family compound, which, combined with two earlier real estate purchases, is worth $38 million. In December he sold a mansion and two penthouses in his native Chicago for a combined $12.3 million.

#31 Thomas Pritzker, $2.2 billion: The chairman of Hyatt Hotels and industrial conglomerate Marmon Holdings, Thomas Pritzker is one of 11 members of the Pritzker family on a Forbes’ billionaires list. He is also one of at least two family members (see below) with Aspen holdings — Pritzker owns a $10.4 million home on Maroon Creek Road and serves on the Aspen Strategy Group of the Aspen Institute, where his wife Margot is a trustee.

#33 J. Christopher Reyes, $2 billion: The food and beer distribution conglomerate that J. Christopher and brother Jude Reyes founded, Reyes Holdings, moves more beer than any other distributor in the U.S. and delivers burgers and fries to all the McDonald’s in Canada, Latin America, and Ireland. But while Reyes Holdings is worth $15 billion, J. Christopher Reyes’s Buttermilk home dropped steeply in value — he paid $31.5 million in 2010 and it’s worth $19.9 million now.

#33 Stewart and Lynda Resnick, $2 billion: Stewart and Lynda Resnick together own a number of companies including POM Wonderful, flower delivery service Teleflora, agricultural producers Paramount Farms and Paramount Citrus Companies, and Fiji Water, which was at one point headquartered in Basalt. The newcomers to the Forbes 400 also own a home east of Aspen valued at $15.3 million and are major donors to the Aspen Institute, where Lynda sits on the board of trustees. Their gift of $3 million to renovate the Paepcke Auditorium caused a flap when it was initially announced that the building housing the auditorium would be named in their honor. The auditorium kept the name of the institute’s founder and the Resnicks went ahead with their donation anyway.

#33 Neil Bluhm, $2 billion: Neil Bluhm is a self-made Chicago-based real estate and casino magnate with stakes in real estate private equity firm Walton Street Capital and commercial developer JMB Realty. Like fellow double billionaire Ted Turner, he also owns millions of dollars’ worth of property in the West, but in Bluhm’s case, it’s a $25.5 million mansion on Aspen’s Red Mountain.

#36 David Bonderman, $1.9 billion: The co-founder of private equity behemoth Texas Pacific Group apparently likes his deals complex, although his company’s investments, including Continental Airlines, Burger King, and J. Crew, have paid off — the firm currently manages $50 billion. Life is probably more simple at “Bondo’s” $25.1 million Wildcat estate outside Snowmass Village, where he apparently likes the neighborhood: He also owns five lots in nearby Cougar Canyon valued at $7.5 million collectively and three lots on Cozy Point Ridge totaling $3.6 million. Bonderman, who flew a bunch of Aspen pals to Las Vegas when he hired the Rolling Stones to play his 60th birthday party there, also is politically liberal. He and his wife recently gave a collective $75,000 to a super PAC that supports Democratic senators and candidates.

#37 Mark Pincus, $1.8 billion: Entrepreneur Mark Pincus made his fortune through social media and online gaming. An early investor in Facebook, Pincus founded social media gaming company Zynga, which makes games such as FarmVille, Mafia Wars, and Words With Friends. He owns a home in Woody Creek valued at $3.8 million.

#37 Penny Pritzker, $1.8 billion: The younger (and slightly poorer) first cousin of Thomas Pritzker (see above) owns a home on lower Castle Creek Road valued at $9 million. Besides both owning Aspen real estate, the cousins are charged with selling assets of the family’s vast business empire. The Chicago businesswoman was national finance chairwoman of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and is one of the key fundraisers for his re-election bid. Pritzker was a speaker at the 2011 Aspen Ideas Festival and is listed as one for this summer’s program as well.

#37 Herbert Simon, $1.8 billion: Simon Property Group, the successor of the firm Herbert Simon co-founded with his deceased brother Melvin, is the largest publicly traded real estate investment trust in the U.S. The company’s interests are largely in shopping malls — it has grown to control 263 million square feet of leasable space and 392 properties in this country as well as in Europe and Asia. Simon has owned his $5.5 million condo at the base of Aspen Mountain since 1997. He also owns the Indiana Pacers basketball team.

#40 Thomas Friedkin, $1.6 billion: Thomas Friedkin’s Gulf States Toyota has exclusive rights to import and distribute Toyota vehicles in five southern states (giving him a cut of every car and truck sold there since 1968). He is also a former Hollywood stunt pilot and small part actor who collects and flies World War II fighter planes, the owner of a hunting safari company who maintains a huge game preserve in Tanzania, and chair of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Friedkin has owned a condo at the base of Aspen Mountain since 1987; it is worth $2.3 million.

There are a number of estates owned by billionaires above McLain Flats Road.
There are a number of estates owned by billionaires above McLain Flats Road.Smith Credit: Brent Gardner-Smith

#41 Ed Bass, $1.5 billion: Although Fort Worth resident Ed Bass made his fortune in a very traditional Texas way —inheriting and building up their namesake oil empire with his brothers — he is, according to Forbes, “the most free-spirited brother.” Along with interests in architecture and ecology (he reportedly spent at least $100 million on the Biosphere 2 experiment in Arizona that sought to recreate the earth in a self-contained environment), he has also invested in a Puerto Rican rainforest, a Nepal hotel, and an Australian ranch. He owns a condo at the Aspen Club worth $2.3 million, and at his $3.9 home east of Aspen, he won government approval to dredge and excavate a portion of the Roaring Fork River in order to improve trout habitat and help stem erosion.

#41 Daniel Gilbert, $1.5 billion: Yet another businessman with sports interests, Daniel Gilbert owns the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. He made his fortune with his Quicken Loans, which made it through the mortgage mess relatively unscathed and wrote $30 billion in new mortgages in 2010. Gilbert continues to add to his empire with tech start-ups, casinos in Ohio, and bargain Detroit real estate. Meanwhile, his Wildcat estate, for which he paid $9 million in 2004, is currently valued at $11.2 million.

#43 Farris Wilks, $1.4 billion: Former mason Farris Wilks went into the family business with his brother Dan (see below) in 1995, but the pair got really rich when they branched out into hydraulic fracturing and oil field services. Also the pastor of a church in his hometown of Cisco, Texas, and the co-owner (with Dan) of a 66,000-acre Montana ranch, Farris bought the most expensive ski-accessible home in Snowmass Village just one month after the brothers sold their combined interest in Frac Tech for $3.5 billion. Farris paid $16 million for the seven-bedroom home in The Pines that is now worth $13.3 million.

#43 Dan Wilks, $1.4 billion. A close partner in business with his brother Farris, he’s also a fan of Aspen. He owns two homes in Aspen close to the downtown core. One is worth $8.3 million and the other, along the river, is worth $4.9 million.

#43 Evgeny (Eugene) Shvidler, $1.4 billion: A Russian with U.S. citizenship who lives in London, Evgeny Shvidler, like his best friend Roman Abramovich (see above) owns property in Snowmass Village, a Two Creeks home valued at $10 million. The self-made oil and gas and investment tycoon has a stake in Russia’s largest steelmaker, as well as Moscow real estate, gold mining, a French vinyard, and cash from oil and media deals.

#46 Christopher “Kit” Goldsbury, $1.3 billion: Christopher “Kit” Goldsbury made his fortune on salsa. He married the daughter of the founder of Pace Foods, worked in the salsa factory, became president, bought his wife’s half when they divorced, and sold the entire outfit to Campbell Soup at a healthy profit. His private equity firm Silver Ventures invests in the food industry and real estate, and Goldsbury invested in Aspen. He owns a home on lower Castle Creek valued at $16.3 million and, like fellow Aspen 50 billionaire Bill Koch, is a plaintiff in a lawsuit aimed at preventing the city of Aspen from building a hydropower plant that would divert water from the creek that runs past his property. Goldsbury has water rights to a small spring on his property that feeds into a pond.

#47 Frank Fertitta, $1.25 billion: Las Vegas resident Frank Fertitta started out in the family casino business but became a billionaire through ultimate fighting. He and his brother’s Station Casinos, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2011, is one of the biggest local casino operators in Vegas. His company, Zuffa LLC, runs the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which is widely televised and has gone mainstream. Like Farris Wilks (see above), Fertitta has a home in The Pines valued at $7.4 million.

#48 Peter Lewis, $1.2 billion: Peter Lewis is chairman of the insurance company his father founded, Progressive Corp., and a fervent liberal activist and philanthropist. He recently gave a Democratic-leaning super PAC $200,000, is one of the country’s biggest proponents of medical marijuana, and reportedly hosted several other billionaires and liberal leaders at the Aspen Institute in 2004 to talk about how to defeat then President George W. Bush in the upcoming election. Lewis owns an $8.3 million home in the West End overlooking Hallam Lake, while his family members have more notorious connections to their nearby properties. His son Jonathan bought the former home of modern Aspen founders Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke and tore it down in the late 1990s to much local outrage. And the family, apparently led by Jonathan, recently purchased the University of Colorado’s former Given Institute for $13.8 million and tore it down to make way for a single-family home.

#49 Dan Snyder, $1.1 billion: Dan Snyder owns the Washington Redskins (the second most valuable NFL team) as well as a $14 million home near Buttermilk. The college dropout made his first million when he was 20 in a business that marketed to college students and built his wealth with a marketing company that he took public as the youngest CEO of a New York Stock Exchange company. His Red Zone Capital has interests ranging from restaurants to broadcasting and TV production. Snyder’s private jet can be easily identified at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport — it has a Redskins logo on it.

#50 Paul Singer, $1 billion: Singer, founder and CEO of Elliott Management in New York, which specializes in distressed debt investing, is one of several Aspen-homeowning financial industry executives to donate to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Singer gave $1 million in October 2011; he also was a major sponsor in 2011 of the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, where he owns two ski homes in the Two Creeks neighborhood, one worth $9.4 million and the other $8.9 million.

Editor’s note: This story was also published in the Perspectives section of The Denver Post on Sunday, August 5, 2012.

Brent Gardner-Smith, the founder of Aspen Journalism, and who served as AJ’s executive director until August 2021 and as editor from 2011-2020, is the news director at Aspen Public Radio. He's also been...