Who has it… and who gives it away.
By Beth Farnstrom
“I go to Washington – if only to be near my money,” comedian Bob Hope once quipped. But forget about taxes pouring into federal coffers: With cash to flash, members of Washington’s growing mega-millionaire’s club (50 Million Plus) like to show their green in perhaps, sometimes ritzy, but mainly philanthropic ways.
Buy a baseball team? No problem. Accessorize with megawatt Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes? Ditto. Underwrite productions at the Kennedy Center? Done.
Washington’s wealth – sparked by the dotcom boom of the ’90s and fueled by the ever-rising real estate and stock markets – has “put a lot of money in people’s pockets and created a new level of wealth in Washington,” says developer Ed Asher of the Chevy Chase Land Company. While ten Washingtonians made the latest Forbes 400 list with fortunes in the billions, wealth is spread far and wide these days. Fortunes have been built on the backs of new technology, media, sports, real estate, government contracts and, of course, Washington’s original industry: politics. In just three years, the number of Washington area families with liquid assets (that is, not counting residential property and 401Ks) grew a whopping 60 percent, from 88,000 in 2003 to 140,000 in 2006. Similarly, in a slightly higher stratosphere, those with $5 million plus in liquid assets grew 53 percent, from 15,000 to 23,000 families, according to Phoenix Marketing International.
Where the money goes, the charity flows and, yes, luxury follows, and how!