ASPEN, CO - Billionaires are a part of the Aspen experience, in one way or the other. Love it or hate it, this simple yet controversial reality is a flattering testament to Aspen’s international magnetism and gravitational pull. When the billionaires began moving into town in the late 1980s and 1990s, they began pushing out millionaires into slummy places like Independence Pass, the Smuggler Trailer Park, Owl Creek, and the Aspen Meadows. Depending on a resident’s socio-economic level or property investment, the “millionaire” housing panic invoked headstrong and heated community reactions, some even making national news with stories on CNN and in the New York Times. Yet time and time again, Aspen is mentioned in the glossy pages of fantasy luxury travel magazines and labeled “a playground for the rich.” For over two decades, Aspen’s thin air, natural beauty, and secluded remoteness has attracted members of the Forbes billionaire club to buy trophy real estate with snowcapped views or build their second (or third or fourth or fifth) home… even if it is only used for one week a year, between Christmas and the New Year.
For most of us bottom-of-the-money-food-chain commoners - meaning the wage-paid hungry, tired, and poor - it can be difficult to fully envision one billion dollars, particularly if you’ve never stepped foot in a Red Mountain estate or flown first class, much less in a private jet where the stewardess offers caviar instead of airline peanuts or Dom Perignon for mouthwash. For the mathematically handicapped, a billion dollars is a one followed by nine zeros. A little unscientific research from around the Internet concludes that a billion minutes ago, the Roman Empire was still in its prime, with one billion minutes equaling somewhere in the ballpark of 1,900 years. In pennies, a billion dollars would cover almost 14 square miles, an area four times the size of the downtown Aspen municipality.
All this begs one question: Who are these mysterious and faceless billionaires? It isn’t difficult to grasp or conceptualize their influence on the town, even though they may not be household names on the cover of a grocery store gossip magazine. Here is a list of the 10 billionaires or one-time billionaires who own or have at one time owned homes in Aspen. According to Forbes, the financial crises in late 2008 and 2009 left many members of this group scrambling, so not everyone on this list is still worth nine figures.
A self-made real estate baron based in Indianapolis, Melvin Simon runs a lucrative private trust called the Simon Property Group. The group has interest in 386 shopping mall properties in North American, Asia, and Europe, including the Mall of America, outside Minneapolis. Simon is also the owner of the Indiana Pacers. According to the Aspen Daily News, he has an Aspen estate on the slopes of Red Mountain.
Forbes 2009 Estimated Wealth: $1.3 Billion
Ranking on the Forbes 2008 World’s Billionaire List: #559