Jorge Perez, the king of condominium building in South Florida, has been named for the first time to the "400 Richest Americans" list, released by Forbes magazine Thursday.
Perez, who is chairman and chief executive of Miami-based The Related Group, shares the magazine's cover with top-ranked Bill Gates, the two founders of Google Inc., and Margaret Hardy Magerko, who leads building supplies company 84 Lumber.
"The condo boom has carried him right on to the list," said David Dabby, a real estate analyst in Coral Gables. Perez "has gone from very well off into the top echelon, not only financially, but now he's considered a national figure." Forbes lists Perez at No. 283, with $1.2 billion.
Dabby said Perez is able to keep his construction costs low because of high volume. "He took advantage of the market like no one else," he said.
The Related Group, which boasts high-profile condominium projects from West Palm Beach to Miami Beach, said Perez was not available for comment Thursday.
Another South Florida success story is Phillip Frost, 68, founder of Ivax Corp., who became a billionaire. Earlier this year Miami-based Ivax announced its acquisition by pharmaceutical firm Teva. Frost's wealth increased from $850 million last year to $1.2 billion, according to Forbes.
But Perez and Frost are not the richest Americans who live in South Florida.
John Kluge, 91, of Palm Beach, still lays claim to top billionaire at No. 23 with an estimated $9 billion. The Metromedia magnate's riches are down from $11 billion in 2004.
South Florida's cruise captain, Micky Arison, 56, is the second richest in these waters. The Carnival Corp. chairman and CEO has a fortune estimated at $5.8 billion, up from $5.3 billion last year.
Fort Lauderdale's premier entrepreneur, H. Wayne Huizenga, 67, is worth a reported $2 billion, up from $1.8 billion in 2004. James M. Moran, 86, founder of JM Family Enterprises, the Deerfield Beach-based Toyota distributor, stood his ground on the list with $1.4 billion. Yet, both Huizenga, ranked No. 133, and Moran, No. 235, fell a few slots in the rankings from last year.
Other Florida billionaires increased their wealth or maintained it in 2005. They include Progressive Group's Peter Benjamin Lewis, 71, of Coconut Grove; Slim-Fast founder S. Daniel Abraham, 81, of Palm Beach; and Subway co-founder Fred DeLuca, 57, of Fort Lauderdale.
Despite their wealth, Florida folks do not rank in the top 10 of richest Americans.
Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp.'s co-founder and chairman, was the nation's wealthiest person for the 11th straight year with a net worth of $51 billion, followed again by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Warren Buffett's $40 billion, according to Forbes.
Noteworthy is the ascent of Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who were ranked 16th by Forbes with $11 billion each, up from No. 43 last year when they each had a net worth of $4 billion. Google went public last year.
Collectively, the top 10 richest Americans saw their net worth climb $125 billion, the magazine said. The poorest members of the list each had a net worth of $900 million.
Paul Allen, a childhood friend of Gates who co-founded Microsoft in 1975, was third wealthiest with $22.5 billion, while Dell Inc.'s chief executive and co-founder, Michael Dell, was fourth with $18 billion, and Lawrence Ellison, chief executive of Oracle Corp., was No. 5 with a net worth of $17 billion.
The rest of the top 10 were members of the Walton family, relatives of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton. Jim Walton and Christy Walton have $15.7 billion, while Forbes says S. Robson Walton has $15.6 billion. Alice Walton has $15.5 billion and Helen Walton has $15.4 billion.
Others on the Forbes 400 list to enjoy the fruits of high-tech and the Internet included Steven Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, who was No. 11 with $14 billion, and Amazon.com Inc.'s Jeff Bezos, who has $4.8 billion and ranked 42nd.
Twenty-seven members of the list are sports investors, including owners of basketball and football teams as well as an English soccer team. For example, Allen owns the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers and the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.
And Malcolm Glazer, a Palm Beach resident who ranks No. 258 with $1.3 billion, gained fame in this country but infamy in Britain this past spring after he bought a controlling stake in Manchester United, perhaps the world's best-known soccer team.
Forbes reporters assembled the list through a series of interviews and company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.